Free college tuition program jumps 36% in Hamilton County

Legacy Fund President Terry Anker said the number of eligible students in Hamilton County enrolled in Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program, which offers free college tuition to eligible students who observe a pledge to earn good grades and stay out of trouble, jumped by 36 percent.

The 21st Century Scholars Enrollment Challenge is a part of Central Indiana Community Foundation’s College Readiness Initiative, which was created to increase educational attainment throughout Central Indiana. Originally launched in 2010 in Marion County, the Enrollment Challenge awards school counselors with gift cards for enrolling 75 percent or more of eligible students – students who participate in a public school free/reduced lunch program – into the state’s 21st Century Scholars Program.

Legacy Fund, an affiliate of CICF, introduced the challenge to Hamilton County in May. According to community school corporation records, Hamilton County had approximately 8,500 free/reduced lunch students in the public school system in the 2012 school year; 32 percent of those eligible seventh and eighth grade students were enrolled in the 21st Century Scholars Program (a total of 388 students) and 40 percent of eligible eighth grade students (a total of 247 students) were enrolled.

Following the Enrollment Challenge, which ended on June 30, enrollment in the program by eligible students in Hamilton County had increased by 139 students – an increase of 36percent. Eighth grade enrollment jumped to 53 percent according to Regional Site Director Amy Parraga.

“For first time in the 21st Century Scholar program’s history, more than half of all eligible 8th graders in Hamilton County are enrolled in the program,” said Anker. “As a result of the Enrollment Challenge, along with school counselors who worked hard to get them into the program, these students are more likely to enroll in post-secondary opportunities following high school graduation. This is an important opportunity for them, as well as their families and our community.”

Parraga also announced upcoming changes to the program. All students in the program must now begin using the scholarship within one year of high school graduation and have eight years of eligibility. Starting with the class of 2015, students must graduate high school with a minimum 2.5 GPA to receive the scholarship. Finally, students enrolled in the program on or before June 30, 2011 will not be required to have their family income reevaluated during their senior years. Students enrolled after that date will be required to participate in an income means test. All 21st Century Scholar eligibility information can be viewed at www.scholars.in.gov.

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