Listen Live
Indiana State University

Source: WISH-TV / other

STATEWIDE — Since the COVID pandemic, colleges and universities in Indiana have been doing their best to get enrollment numbers back up.

Every school in the state felt a big strain on the number of students attending college both during the height of the pandemic and the years that followed. Pandemic aside, there have also been more efforts to steer some students towards careers in the trades.

Both instances have fueled a decline in enrollment in post-secondary education in Indiana.

“Kids leaving high school and going to colleges and universities, same thing for adults, has really been declining pretty precipitously over the last decade,” said Chris Lowery, Commissioner of the Indiana Higher Education Commission on Indy Politics.

Through all that, Lowery said the state still has actually been doing a good job of recruiting students to pursue a degree, but he said the state is struggling to keep students who graduate in Indiana to work.

“We are 14th in the nation in bringing students in, but we are 40th in the nation in keeping them after graduation,” Lowery said.

In an effort to encourage more students to consider a college degree, they have pursued certain proposals with state lawmakers such as making it easier to fill out the FAFSA to help students get financial aid.

Lowery also advertises a lot of statistics that he said show the benefits of getting a college degree.

“There are absolute improvements in wages. There are absolute improvements in unemployment rates, labor participation rates,” Lowery said of those who get a degree. “Infant mortality goes down with educational attainment. Death by opioids goes down.

Lowery added they are pushing several other programs as well to increase enrollment. He is bullish on the future of Indiana’s high educational institutions.