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Indiana sees slow progress on attaining college degrees

Updated: July 17, 2013 7:15AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana is unlikely to hit its goal of having 60 percent of adults earning college degrees or certificates by 2025 if it continues to make gains at its current slow pace, state leaders say.

A Lumina Foundation report found just 33.8 percent of working-age Hoosiers had college degrees in 2011, up from 33.2 percent in 2010.

That leaves Indiana the lowest state in the Midwest for college attainment and ranked 41st in the country.

“I’m impatient for more dramatic change in our rankings and in our percentages,” said Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s higher education commissioner, told the Indianapolis Star. “We’re trending in the right direction, but not at the speed with which we need to in order to reach our big goal of 60 percent.”

Indiana isn’t alone in an uphill climb to meet the 60 percent mark, which is commonly set as a goal to match workforce needs.

But Indiana needs more than to simply have more people choose college opportunities and a larger percentage of them finish their degrees or certificates. The historically manufacturing-heavy state needs to overcome a mindset in which higher education is viewed as unnecessary, business leaders say.

“We’ve got to break that kind of mindset in our population,” said Derek Redelman, vice president for education and workforce development at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce predicts that by 2018, 55 percent of Indiana jobs will require some kind of post-secondary education.

Redelman said Indiana has a shortage of nurses, truck drivers and machine operators — all high-paying jobs that require a certificate or license.

And even though the state has a low cost of living, attractive tax climate and central location, he said, “the one thing that continues to pop back up for Indiana are the challenges of our workforce.”

Gov. Mike Pence has made job creation a priority, establishing regional work councils to help connect career education with job needs.

Lubbers said she doesn’t think Indiana is destined to fail to reach the 60 percent college-degree goal even though it seems unattainable now.

“I don’t think we’re doomed to always be a lesser state in terms of education attainment,” she said.



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