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Executive Summary

When we first considered a report featuring the true cost of college in
Indiana, we began referring to it as a report on affordability. But what does
affordability mean, and more importantly — what do Hoosiers think when
they hear that term?

The concept of affordability may seem easy to understand — whether
someone can buy something depending on its price. The term is subjective,
however. What’s affordable to one person is not necessarily affordable to
another person.

Recently, the Commission has been working to understand why the college-
going rate is declining in Indiana. Five years ago, 65 percent of high school
students enrolled in college after graduation. Data in the Commission’s most
recent College Readiness Report show that rate is currently 59 percent — and it’s going to continue to

However, more jobs than ever before and nearly all jobs created in recent years require some level of
education beyond a high school diploma. At a time when education is more important than ever, the value
of higher education is being called into question at a rate higher than before. Why?

Cost — whether perception or reality — is one of the most important factors for those considering
education and training beyond high school. During our research, most Hoosiers interviewed — around 80
percent — say they feel “favorable” toward higher education. However, many of those same people believe
college is not the right path for them or it simply isn’t necessary. Both perspectives are overwhelmingly
guided by concerns of cost.

As shown in this report, the reality of Indiana’s college cost and financial aid landscape is clearly different
than its perception. While affordability remains a concern, Indiana’s public institutions have kept tuition
increases low — among the lowest in the nation. In addition, Indiana’s lawmakers have shown a decades-
long commitment to address college costs through sustained and generous financial aid benefits. Our state
is first in the Midwest and fifth in the nation in providing need-based financial aid. Indiana’s early college
promise program, 21st Century Scholars, has allowed more than 45,000 students to earn a degree with
little to no debt.

In addition to need-based aid, Hoosier students have access to a multitude of public and private grants
and scholarships to make the cost of college more manageable. In fact, most students do not pay the full
“sticker” price to go to college.

Along with concerns of cost, the Commission’s research uncovered that when most individuals hear the
words “higher education,” they think of four-year institutions. A four-year degree is one valued pathway, but
it isn’t the only one. Indiana has prioritized expanding the definition of “college” to include an assortment of
postsecondary programs of varying lengths — and supported this expansion by putting millions in financial
aid toward more flexible, shorter-term options.

The Workforce Ready Grant, for example, pays for workforce certificates in five of the state’s most
sought-after sectors, including health and life sciences; IT and business services; building and construction,
transportation and logistics; and advanced manufacturing. Most of the programs that are part of the
Workforce Ready Grant are short term — usually six months to a year — making them accessible to learners
of all ages.

Having the right messengers to inform Hoosier students and families of these opportunities is crucial to
changing the narrative around the value of higher education. Different messengers — such as teachers, school
counselors, faith-based organizations, employers and community leaders — resonate with different students and
families, and they’re critical to informing the conversation around college costs and financial aid.
Education and training beyond high school provides more than a degree or certificate. It’s an investment
that remains a powerful force to address income disparities, close equity gaps, improve health, drive
economic growth, promote civic engagement and enhance the quality of life in our Indiana communities.


Source: Indiana Commission for Higher Education (2022). Indiana College Costs and Financial Aid Report 2022.