Seven counties recognized for higher education efforts

Amanda Creech
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS — State Commissioner for Higher Education, Teresa Lubbers, opened up the 2015 College Success Coalitions Award Ceremony on Tuesday by telling the representatives of the counties of the importance of what happens in the Statehouse.

“But today we’re going to talk about what you do not in this building,” Lubbers said. “This is an opportunity to say thank you and acknowledge your effort.”

The College Success Coalition is a network of state and local organizations working to increase college access and success across the state. Member organizations include local businesses, government, colleges, schools, community groups, youth organizations and faith-based organizations.

This year, seven counties are being recognized for their efforts to increase the percentage of Hoosiers with education and training beyond high school. Last year, 15 counties were recognized during the ceremony.

Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s Jason Bearce commended the counties for all of their efforts.

“As much as it’s hard to get the ball rolling, it’s even harder to keep that ball rolling,” Bearce said, “and to stay the course to be an active, thriving, sustainable coalition.”

Bearce also added that this ceremony shows a “connection between a strong education system and economic development and a community that’s not committed to just talking about the challenges we all face in Indiana but that we’re going to come together to do something about it.”

Representatives of the seven counties were given a metal sign to place in their town, congratulating them for being a “college success county.” The counties recognized were Cass, Daviess, Franklin, LaPorte, Posey, Spencer, and Warren.

Lubbers said that counties need to take an honest assessment of completion numbers, high school graduation rates, college going rates, and attainment rates and “have the courage to look at that and say we have some gaps here.” And strive to fix those gaps.

Lubbers stressed the need to align education credentials with work needs in the community as well. She said 60 percent of Hoosiers have quality credentials and two-thirds of jobs require education beyond high school.

Carol Clark, executive director of the Warren County Community Foundation, represented her county to accept the award today. Her plan in her county is to bring awareness to credentials outside of a high school diploma.

“We facilitated discussions and meetings in the community to get organizations, businesses and schools on board to really get our students to have a plan after high school,” Clark said. “Whether that is college, whether that’s certification, whether that’s the military.”

Not only does Clark want the students in her community to have a plan, but she also wants them to complete the plan in a timely fashion.

As a community foundation, her organization funds several educational initiatives such as college visits. Her foundation has also begun reaching out to elementary and junior high schools to get them on college campuses early on in their educational career.

“We even have an initiative this summer where I’m getting third graders on college campuses,” Clark said. “So we want them to know that this is just something that they’re going to do, to know that it’s a possibility and that we try to make that happen for them.”

Amanda Creech is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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