Indiana State University has received a $6.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment for “Sycamores Achieve,” a new program to improve retention and graduation rates of first-generation students, students of color, and students who qualify for federal Pell Grants.

The funding was part of the competitive third phase of a Lilly Endowment initiative, Charting the Future for Indiana's Colleges and Universities.

The initiative is designed to help Indiana colleges and universities assess and prioritize the most significant challenges and opportunities they face as higher education institutions and develop strategies to address them.

“In a year with so many rough waters to navigate, this affirmation of our aspirations from Lilly Endowment means a great deal to this campus,” said ISU President Deborah J. Curtis. “I’m so grateful for this generous grant and I appreciate Lilly Endowment’s foresight in supporting solutions to the challenges facing higher education. This investment in ISU and its students will pay off for years to come.”

ISU will collaborate with Ivy Tech Community College–Terre Haute to support students with more intensive, developmental and holistic advising to improve retention and four-year graduation rates.

ISU and Ivy Tech-Terre Haute will work together to align services and curricula to expand the schools’ Pathway to Blue program. That’s an initiative for eligible first-year students to take classes at Ivy Tech-Terre Haute while living on Indiana State’s campus. If successful, students will transition to enrollment at ISU as sophomores.

“Indiana’s colleges and universities face myriad challenges as they work to fulfill their educational missions while adapting to growing financial pressures, rapid demographic and technological changes, and evolving needs and demands of students,” said Ted Maple, the Endowment’s vice president for education. “We are pleased with the creative and collaborative approaches the colleges and universities are taking to address these challenges and seize opportunities to better serve their students, institutions, communities and the state of Indiana.”

Lilly Endowment launched the three-phased Charting the Future initiative in 2019 to help leaders of the state’s 38 colleges and universities engage in thoughtful discernment about the future of their institutions and to advance strategic planning and implementation efforts to address key challenges and opportunities.

Collaboration was encouraged, especially in the third phase of Charting the Future, and several schools proposed collaborative programs and strategies. Through three phases of grantmaking, Lilly Endowment awarded more than $138 million to the schools.

Through earlier rounds of the initiative, all 38 schools received planning grants, which were approved in December 2019, and implementation grants approved in June and September 2020. The implementation grants funded strategies to improve efforts to prepare students for successful futures and strengthen the schools’ long-term institutional vitality.
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