MUNCIE Ind. — An Indiana program designed to make college accessible for low-income students has stopped offering tours of college campuses as a result of program cuts.
The 21st Century Scholars program was founded in 1990 with the goal of ensuring that every student could afford a college education. It offered low-income middle school students a full scholarship to college if they avoided drugs, stayed out of criminal trouble and got acceptable grades.
But the program has undergone changes in recent years as demand for the scholarships has risen, fueled by the economy and tuition increases at state universities.
Lawmakers in 2011 announced that 21st Century students would have to meet an income qualification requirement upon application to college starting in 2016-17, and they must meet an income qualification requirement for scholarship renewal if enrolled after 2011. The changes also shifted enrollment to seventh or eighth grade, instead of sixth grade, and increased the required grade-point averages for students graduating high school and while in college.
Word that the campus visits would be cut has upset some education leaders, who say the tours played a valuable role for students considering furthering their education.
“For a lot of these students, they might be the first generation in their family to go to college, so college tours are a big part of the whole process,” Judy Henman, guidance counselor at Central High School, told The Star Press (http://tspne.ws/R3Fh7H).
The college visits aren’t the only recent casualty. The program also has seen the number of regions around the state where students could get information cut from 14 to eight.
“The workload for them has increased tremendously,” said Dick Daniel of Project Leadership, a local organization that helps teens with college readiness, including the 21st Century Scholars program.
“They had a lot of stuff before. Now they have fewer people to do that stuff,” he said.
Daniel said Project Leadership is working with 21st Century Scholars to take on the college tours.
“We are certainly going to try to pick up the tours to Purdue, Indiana University and Ball State,” Daniel said. “It’s a big deal for these kids, and we would hate to see that part of the program go away.”