SOUTH BEND -- Indiana needs to raise the education levels of its residents in order to compete economically for new jobs, and local people are being sought to help with that effort.
Improving K-12 schools isn't intended just to graduate students from high school, Teresa Lubbers, Indiana's commissioner for higher education, said Wednesday during a daylong community summit here focusing on improving student success.
"We're doing it to get them in college and career ready," she said.
Indiana ranks 40th nationally in education attainment, with just a third of Hoosier adults having earned more than a high school diploma. Indiana has set a goal of increasing the proportion of adults with post-secondary training to 60 percent by 2025.
In the city of South Bend, just 21.2 percent of adults over 25 have a college degree, according to U.S. Census data.
A College Success Coalition of St. Joseph County was formed three years ago. It's one of 34 such county-based coalitions in Indiana, and more local parents, educators, business people and others are needed to join in the effort.
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Coalition members work together and with students to promote post-secondary training, and to ready students for success in school or jobs after high school.
Those involved in the coalition also are active in specific programs to increase educational success, including Educational Talent Search and Upward Bound at the University of Notre Dame, and a program at Mishawaka High School called Beyond the Cave, which is designed to ready students to apply to and succeed in college and other training.
College students of today don't look like traditional college students of the past, living and studying full-time on four-year campuses, Lubbers said.
Only 1 in 4 students who pursues higher education today will ever live on a college campus. Many of the rest are adults, often full-time workers supporting their families and attending college classes in their spare time, she said.
"The academic and financial needs of those students are greater when they get there. And they're less likely to complete (a degree)," she said.
One in four Indiana students who enter college requires remedial work in math or reading, and that figure is 65 to 70 percent for students entering community colleges, she said.
Some employers in attendance said the greatest challenge facing them in hiring is finding adequately trained, reliable job candidates.
"Regardless of the position, we are having trouble finding qualified people," said Eileen Shue, vice president of corporate resources with The Sterling Group.
Punctuality, attendance, proper attire and the ability to work on a team and learn new skills are needed, she said. Many candidates disqualify themselves because of criminal backgrounds or drug use, she said.
Some changes have been made in Indiana's 21st Century Scholars program, which promises free in-state public college tuition to low-income students. Students now will have to meet new academic and financial requirements, and they're no longer guaranteed that all their tuition will be picked up by the state.
Those changes were prompted by rising costs and lagging college completion rates by participants.
"This program is at risk if we can't increase the success rate. This is a shared responsibility," Lubber said, referring to students, their families, educators and the state.
Staff writer Margaret Fosmoe: