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Empowering Tomorrow: District Inspires College Aspirations

In a promising trend for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), an increasing number of students are setting their sights on higher education, thanks to strategic investments in programs aimed at enhancing awareness and dismantling barriers to college access.

“The concerted efforts of the Future Center program, school counseling team, and various school- and district-based staff have been instrumental in this positive shift, reflecting a commitment to fostering a college-going culture,” said Melody Coryell, IPS executive director of postsecondary readiness.

“The tireless dedication of these teams is evident in their multifaceted approach to empower students,” she said. “From organizing insightful college visits to facilitating seamless admissions at IU Indianapolis, the emphasis has been on broadening students’ horizons and demystifying the college application process.”

A recent report by IPS found that for the Class of 2023:

  • 64.2% intended to enroll in a 2- or 4-year college/university or trade program.
  • 33.1% planned to pursue a career after graduation.
  • 2.7% intent to enlist in a branch of the United States military.

This fall, the Class of 2024 reported their plans after graduation:

  • 72.2% of students planned to pursue a 2- or 4-year college/university or trade program.
  • 23.6% of students planned to pursue full-time employment.
  • 4.2% of students planned to pursue enlistment in a branch of the United States military.

The National Student Clearing House reported that 29.2% of the IPS Class of 2022 enrolled in college in the fall immediately after high school. About 32.8% of that class enrolled in college within one year of graduation.

In the coming months, IPS will seek to boost college enrollment thanks to a two-year, $240,000 grant from College Matters, an initiative of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. As a result of the grant, IPS hired a college specialist to support district-managed high schools and alternative education program students to complete college applications, file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), apply for scholarships, and matriculate to college. Senior families can file the FAFSA beginning Dec. 31, by going to www.studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa

“Additionally, the implementation of the Xello college and career readiness platform has played a pivotal role in providing students with valuable resources and guidance to navigate their educational and professional journeys successfully,” Coryell said. “This innovative platform equips students with tools to explore diverse career paths and align their academic pursuits with their long-term goals.”

As a result, IPS is not merely encouraging students to think about college; it is actively equipping them with the knowledge and tools needed to make informed decisions about their future, she said.

Coryell noted another sign that college awareness is increasing is due to the notable upswing in dual credit and dual enrollment participation, signaling a rebound from the pandemic-induced dip in these numbers.

Coryell said several factors contribute to this positive trend, including an increase in the number of credentialed teachers within IPS. This critical enhancement is a key driver, as the presence of credentialed educators is essential for offering dual credit courses in high schools.

The implementation of Indiana College Core programs at Crispus Attucks and Arsenal Tech further adds to the momentum, creating more avenues for students to engage in advanced coursework. The resurgence in dual credit and dual enrollment is also attributed to heightened state- and national-level support, bringing increased visibility to the value of such programs.

At Arsenal Tech, 217 students participated in dual credit or dual enrollment at Ivy Tech College for 2022–2023, earning 1,349 credits. At Crispus Attucks, 158 students were enrolled in the programs and earned 1,436 credits.

Coryell said a strengthened partnership between IPS and institutions like Ivy Tech and IU Indianapolis underscores a commitment to providing students with diverse educational opportunities.

“As a result, IPS is witnessing a resurgence in dual credit enrollment, offering students a unique ‘best of both worlds’ scenario where they can access college coursework on their high school campus, taught by certified high school teachers, thus removing barriers like transportation and cost.”