GUEST COMMENTARY: College degree is key to higher standard of living

2013-09-24T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: College degree is key to higher standard of livingBy Tom Dermody
September 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

According to a recent Ball State University study, on average, the standard of living for Hoosiers is equivalent to living in 1996. Now, more than ever, we must incentivize students to obtain college degrees and help make them affordable.

A Pew Research Center study shows a typical college graduate earns an estimated $650,000 more during their career than a high school graduate. This study joins countless others proclaiming the key to higher paying jobs and a higher standard of living is through higher education.

As the Ways and Means Higher Education Subcommittee chair, I have worked alongside the Indiana Commission for Higher Education to lower the cost of a degree, limit the amount of student loan debt, increase graduation rates, achieve more degrees for tax dollars spent and most importantly, help students enter the workforce quickly, earning a self-sustaining income.

This year, working to achieve these goals, I authored House Enrolled Act 1348. The law makes various changes to the Frank O’Bannon Grant and 21st Century Scholars Program, encouraging students to maintain a four-year graduation pace. Staying on track decreases the debt burden students experience after college.

Forty-four percent of students graduate in six years rather than four, and each additional year can cost these students an extra $50,000 in lost wages, tuition and other related costs, the commission estimates. HEA 1348 holds students accountable to maintain a four-year pace by requiring them to take 30 credits per year as well as basing financial assistance on classes completed rather than registered for.

Through HEA 1348, which extends financial assistance into the summer months, students are more likely to graduate on time or enter the workforce in less than four years.

As an added bonus, HEA 1348 provides the commission may offer an incentive-based award centered on student performance.

One significant component of the law is mandating state colleges to develop a "degree map" to help full-time students, enrolling after July 31, 2014, to stay on track throughout academia. 

Additionally, HEA 1348 requires Indiana’s public colleges to ensure courses, coinciding with a student's degree map, are available for the student during their academic term. If the required class conflicts with other courses or is full, the college must provide that course to the student at no cost during the next academic term.

The 21st Century Scholars Program works to ensure success prior to entering college. Scholars in the 21st Century Program are required to obtain a Core 40 high school diploma with a minimum 2.5 grade point average. Additionally, the Indiana’s Scholar Success Program helps students plan their path, providing them with the tools necessary to be college-ready as well as information on paying for college.

I continue to invite innovate solutions so the standard of living for Hoosier families is no longer in 1996 but rather ahead of the curve.

Indiana state Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, represents the 20th District. He may be reached at at or call (317) 232-9619. The opinions are the writer's.

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