The Indiana Commission for Higher Education's 2019 Indiana College Equity Report, released last month, shows Indiana learners are more diverse, but also more economically challenged, than a decade ago.
The report, compiled annually as part of the CHE's goal to close the post-secondary achievement gap by 2025, studies four predominant demographic points — gender, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status and geography — through data compiled by the Indiana Department of Education and public higher education institutions.
Its findings reported trends seen since 2008's recession — showing this year that nearly one-third of all high school graduates in 2017 were of low-income households and that two of the fastest-growing racial groups in the state, including black and Hispanic students, were the most likely to come from low-income households.
With this report and its data, educators are able to glean a sense of where college preparedness excels and where Indiana institutions can grow to improve. Here's a detailed look at findings of the 2019 report.
High school diploma type an indicator for success
In an era of changing high school graduation requirements, diploma type matters.
This year's CHE report shows 90% of Indiana honors diploma recipients enter college within a year of graduation and students graduating with the academic honors diploma saw higher percentages of early college success at 70% compared to those graduating with the state's Core 40 diploma at 26%.
This statistic grows more important when acknowledging disparities among diploma earners. Just 16% of black and 25% of Hispanic students earn the state's honors diploma compared to 40% of white students, according to the CHE report.
The CHE further ties these statistics into early college success showing that white students with an academic honors diploma meet early college success benchmarks 71% of the time, while black students with the same diploma meet those benchmarks 56% of the time.
And, this gap grows when comparing Core 40 and general diploma earners. White students see early college success more than one-and-a-half times that of black students with Core 40 diplomas, and twice that of black students with general diplomas.
Low-income students are also less likely to earn an academic honors diploma and see early college success compared to their wealthier counterparts, the report found.
"These gaps are unacceptable," Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said in a CHE news release. "We must continue to challenge these gaps and work together to provide a successful path forward for all Hoosiers."
Socioeconomic, geographic, gender gaps widen
The CHE report also shows that some gaps among socioeconomic, geographic and gender divides are growing.
In this year's report, the CHE found that low-income students not enrolled in the state's 21st Century Scholars Program entered college within a year of high school graduation at a rate of 39% — showing a drop of five percentage points over five years.
Rural communities also saw a decline in the percentage of students attending college within a year of graduation. Fifty-nine percent of rural graduates entered college directly, according to this year's report. And, while rural students in 2017 made up a quarter of all Hoosier graduates, that 59% fell four percentage points below the state average and five points below that of non-rural students.
The report also found a growing gender divide over the last five years.
While both male and female students saw declines overall in the rate of students attending college directly out of high school, female students saw a two percentage point drop from 71% to 69% compared to male students who saw a four point drop from 61% to 57%.
"Campuses need to innovate ways to support learners and reduce the disparity in who achieves success in college," Lubbers said. "Further alignments among Indiana's K-12 post-secondary and workforce systems is crucial to closing these achievement gaps and necessary for the future of our state."
21st Century Scholars show road map for success
A silver lining may lie among the Equity Report's findings.
Students enrolled in the state's 21st Century Scholars Program — a four-year program funding undergraduate, in-state tuition for eligible low-income students — showed the most promise in contributing to the CHE's 2025 achievement gap goal.
On-time completion rates for 21st Century Scholars have increased over the last five years by 14 percentage points for scholars attending two-year programs and 12 percentage points for scholars attending four-year programs.
Among 21st Century Scholars, 86% of students entered college within a year of high school graduation at a rate higher than any other group studied in the CHE report. That's compared to a 63% state average.
"Without a doubt, 21st Century Scholars are outpacing all populations of Indiana's graduates in college-going rates," Lubbers said. "As we approach the 30th anniversary of the Scholars program, it must remain a priority for the state because this program is key to closing the state's achievement gaps."
For the full 2019 College Equity Report, see the Indiana Commission for Higher Education's website at in.gov/che/4866.htm.