Enrolling in college isn't enough. Degree completion is the route to success. And Indiana has a long way to go.
Just 3 in 10 students enrolled at four-year schools in Indiana graduate on time, and only half finish within six years, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
A new report from the commission calls out Hoosier colleges for not getting students to complete their degree requirements on time. The aim is to increase to 60 percent, by 2025, the number of adults who have college degrees.
Tracking data like this gets complicated by students who transfer from one school to another, or who change their major so late in the process that additional classes are required, or who attend classes as they can afford them rather than borrowing money to finish sooner.
In Indiana, at least, the traditional concept of a four-year degree and a two-year degree doesn't work. The majority of students take longer to graduate.
That's a concern for a couple of reasons. One is that graduating sooner generally means less debt and a quicker route to earning more. Two is that the longer a student takes to earn a degree, the less likely that student is to actually finish it.
At Indiana University Northwest, 17.6 percent complete college within four years, 36.7 percent in six years and 43.2 percent in eight years.
At Purdue University Calumet, 12.8 percent complete within four years, 39 percent in six years and 46.6 in eight years.
At Purdue North Central, 14.9 percent complete within four years, 37.4 percent in six years and 46.3 percent in eight years.
At Ivy Tech Community College, 5.2 percent of full-time students complete within two years, 19.6 percent in four years and 27.7 percent in six years.
In comparing the statistics, recognize reasons some of the regional campuses, especially, see students take longer to achieve their diploma.
For these students, their work and family lives cannot be ignored in the pursuit of a degree. Recognize the difference between students who live on campus and those who commute. However, don't use that as an excuse for accepting the status quo.
Each campus must develop new programs to help students get ready access to support services. Help them build connections with fellow students to encourage them to stay in school. Advise them to keep up the steady pace of their studies. Make sure courses are available when they're needed so students don't have to wait to enroll in them.
Indiana's future depends on improving educational attainment levels. Completing degree work sooner is vital.