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Indiana Looks to Entice Adults Back to College

INDIANAPOLIS ― An Indiana state agency wants to encourage some 700,000 adults who started but never finished college to complete their degree.

Indiana Commission for Higher Education is creating a database of former college students who never graduated in hopes of finding ways to get them back in school.

Indiana has some 737,000 adults with some college, but no degree ― and the state commission is gathering information such as how many college credits those people have earned and how financial aid eligibility they have left, The Indianapolis Star reported.

In partnership with public and private colleges, the state agency hopes to contact those adults by January 2016 with the goal of eventually having 200,000 of them earn degrees.

“That’s very ambitious, but that’s driven by what the state needs,” said Sarah Ancel, the agency’s associate commissioner for policy and legislation.

Attracting those adults back to college can be difficult, as they face more family and work conflicts than younger students. Experts say colleges should look at offering more classes online, creating accelerated degrees for adults and making student services, such as advisers and the bookstore, available at night or on weekends.

“The school has to be flexible in order to make these students feel comfortable,” said Kathy Lee, chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College’s Central Indiana region. “When they do come back, they need to feel at home on campus. It’s OK to come back, no matter what age you are. We’ll accommodate that you’re not 18.”

The Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne campus tried to encourage such students to return by offering half-off tuition for this semester to about 3,000 of its former students who were at least halfway to bachelor’s degrees but had taken at least a year off. They also had to be Indiana residents who had maintained good grades.

The offer touted a potential savings of $7,800. About 100 students enrolled with the comeback program, IPFW reported.

That offer helped 30-year-old human services worker Ryan Morrolf decide to resume work toward her bachelor’s degree.

She has earned an associate’s degree through classes at Ivy Tech and IPFW but already has about $20,000 in student loan debt despite receiving federal and state aid.

The IPFW incentive was “perfect timing,” Morrolf said.

“I haven’t had to take out any more student loans,” she said. “That’s another reason I put off school. Until this past April, I wasn’t finding any employment. I didn’t see any point in continuing my degree path, because social work doesn’t pay much, and I already had all these student loans.”

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