Cost-saving opportunities, grants Hoosiers aren’t aware of that drastically reduce student loan debt

12:00 PM, May 15, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has led an estimated 28 million Americans to re-think their educational plans and question if the cost of a postsecondary credential is worth it. Just in the state of Indiana alone, average student loan debt is just over $29,000. However, what many do not know is that a college degree in Indiana does not have to be an expensive financial burden at all. Many also don’t realize that 62% of jobs in Indiana require skills and knowledge higher than a high school diploma – with many jobs that need filled.

Within the last decade, Indiana passed course and degree transfer laws allowing students to earn college credits in alternative ways, some of which aren't even in a college classroom. Knowing the burden of student loan debt is a hindrance for many, these laws allow Hoosiers to earn college credit in high school or at affordable postsecondary institutions. This credit provides them the chance to stack credentials that enhance their resume along the way, making them an asset to a company while continuing their educational journey.

“Many Hoosiers aren’t aware of these alternative pathways that put a college credential within reach, often in a shorter amount of time,” said Dan Clark, vice chancellor for Ivy Tech Community College Noblesville. “Both degrees and industry certifications are good preparations for higher paying jobs.”

Hamilton County's workforce comprises more than 210,000 citizens, with more than 60,000 without postsecondary training or education.

With future-work jobs that desperately need to be filled, it's vital to Hamilton County and Indiana's economy for people to use these credit transfer options to their advantage – graduating with little to no student debt.

For high school students, dual credit classes can be taken at their school, which count towards their Core 40 diploma and seamlessly transfer to public institutions. Not only does this mean a student can take college classes for free, but it also reduces the amount of time it will take in college to earn a credential. Students looking for additional ways to reduce the time it takes to earn a credential can explore dual enrollment courses at their local community college.

These cost-saving opportunities aren’t just limited to high school students. Anyone can earn college credits at an affordable institution that transfer to the four-year college or university of their choice.

Ivy Tech is one of the options students have to earn a credential for a fraction of the price, allowing them to take advantage of Indiana’s one- or two-year programs that transfer.
Indiana’s Statewide Transfer General Education Core (STGEC) is a 30-credit hour block of courses that can be earned at a two-year institution and transfer towards a bachelor’s degree. For those looking to maximize savings, one can earn an associate degree through one of Indiana's Transfer Single Articulation Pathways (TSAPs); a 60-credit hour block transfers to any public college or university in Indiana.

In addition to these transfer pathways, Hoosiers can explore grants and scholarships to further reduce debt. Indiana’s Next Level Jobs initiative is one of these grant opportunities that provides qualifying Hoosiers with a free certificate in high-paying in-demand industries. Students can enroll in a qualifying program to earn a certificate for free in as little as one year, then choose to enter the workforce or continue to earn an associate degree.

All these options available to Hoosiers are the key to an affordable education, especially in times that may feel as uncertain as they do today.

“Initially when I graduated high school, I was actually pretty opposed to going to college because all of my friends were getting in tremendous amounts of debt – and I knew I didn’t want that for myself,” said Abigail Ogden, an Ivy Tech Noblesville spring 2020 graduate. “I set a personal goal to either graduate debt-free or have a small amount of debt that could be paid off within a few years, which really narrowed down my options.”

After doing her research, Ogden decided on Ivy Tech because she found no other comparison.

During her time as a student, Ogden took advantage of the College’s financial aid options, scholarship opportunities and a federal workstudy position to maximize savings, which allowed her to graduate debt-free.

“That wouldn’t have been possible had I gone straight to a four-year university instead of going to Ivy Tech first,” she said. “Since I graduated with no debt, my choices for continuing my education are bigger because I have more money to make that decision.”

It's essential for people to know that employers in Hamilton County are investing in its community's future, with institutions like Ivy Tech making high education attainable by reducing the overall cost of a degree by 40-50 percent.

Classes at Ivy Tech are the same courses a student would take a four-year institution. In fact, many students enrolled at Indiana colleges and universities take advantage of Ivy Tech’s guest student program, which allows them to take some of their required courses at the community college while still enrolled at their current school.

Ivy Tech’s small class sizes enhance the learning experience, and the College’s vast number of student resources and support services ensure students have what they need to be successful both in- and out-of-the-classroom.

These resources range from free tutoring and career coaching to solutions that combat food insecurities and mental health.

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ivy Tech has further increased efforts to help remove financial barriers and other stressors students face because the bottom line is this: employers have high-demand, high-wage jobs available that the current workforce isn’t equipped for. This is why Hamilton County is working to re-skill or upskill its more than 60,000 residents without a postsecondary credential.

By starting at Ivy Tech Noblesville, Hamilton County residents can save an upwards of $10,000 on their education. From here, grants and scholarships like Next Level Jobs can be explored to further maximize savings.

For those interested in using this time of uncertainty to their advantage, summer classes at Ivy Tech start June 8 – and will be virtual all summer to ensure the safety of its students. For more information about the Ivy Tech Noblesville campus, visit IvyTech.edu/Noblesville or call 888-IVY-LINE.

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