Megan Medlock, sophomore at Indiana University Southeast, works on a physiology assignment Monday at the campus library. Brooke McAfee | News and Tribune
Megan Medlock, sophomore at Indiana University Southeast, works on a physiology assignment Monday at the campus library. Brooke McAfee | News and Tribune
SOUTHERN INDIANA — Higher education officials in Southern Indiana say affordability in higher education is a major focus as they look to scholarships and other ways to reduce students’ financial burdens.

At Indiana University Southeast, about half of students take out student loans, and at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg, the majority of graduates do not leave with student debt.

Amanda Stonecipher, vice chancellor for enrollment, marketing and student affairs at IUS, said the regional campus is “poised and equipped” to make college “affordable and accessible” for students while offering a high-quality education.

She notes that the regional campus has recently rolled out a number of new initiatives to reduce costs for student and minimize the amount of student loans they need to take out, including new scholarship opportunities.

“In our view, IUS is the best value in the region for a 4-year degree, but it’s also an investment in the future,” Stonecipher said. “Looking back at the pandemic, those with bachelor’s degrees were really able to weather the storm a little better.”

Tyiana Thompson, vice chancellor of enrollment services and student success at Ivy Tech Sellersburg, said the community college wants families and students to know what options are available to them in terms of federal aid and scholarships so they can avoid taking out student loans.

IU SOUTHEAST

At IUS, the average total indebtedness of the graduating 2021 class was $20,216, and in 2021, 54% of graduating students had borrowed student loans, according to U.S. News and World Report.

The median federal loan debt among IUS borrowers who received an undergraduate degree is $19,693, and the typical monthly payment for federal loans is $197.

At Indiana University in Bloomington, the average indebtedness of the 2021 graduating class is $27,557, which is higher than the IUS average. However, IU Bloomington’s median federal loan debt after graduation is actually slightly lower than IUS at $19,500 with a typical monthly payment of $195.

For 2022-23, the cost of in-state tuition/fees at IUS is $7,941, and out-of-state tuition is $21,301. In comparison, the national average cost of tuition is $11,286 for in-state and $27,394 for out-of-state.

The 2022-23 annual tuition is higher at IU Bloomington at $11,447 for in-state and $39,120 for out-of-state, which are both higher than the national average.

The tuition at IUS is also lower than larger campuses such as University of Kentucky, University of Louisville and Purdue University.

Stonecipher noted that a variety of factors can lessen the financial burden for IUS students and prevent them from accumulating debt. The campus has been introducing several new scholarships, including the “last dollar” Grenadier Promise scholarship that was rolled out this year.

Combined with federal/ state grants and scholarships, the Grenadier Promise covers tuition and mandatory fees for IUS students.

“It closes the gap between what a student receives in federal and state grants, and it aims to reduce the burden of higher education to those most in need for students who could benefit the most,” Stonecipher said.

She notes that the regional campus has also cut costs for students in certain areas, including eliminating common fees for parking and college applications.

According to Stonecipher, IUS graduates make an average of about $47,000 a year five years after graduation, and 81% are employed in Indiana.

“Any kind of debt can be an added strain or stressor on individuals or a family, but with that said, having a college degree and being employed and moving up the ladder at a business or company allows them to address the debt and move forward,” Stonecipher said.

IVY TECH SELLERSBURG

In-state tuition for Ivy Tech Sellersburg is $149.55 per credit hour and $292.57 per credit hour for out-of-state. For full-time students, in-state tuition is $2,243, and out-of-state tuition is $4,388.

“If you look at other institutions, it’s triple that for some four-year institutions,” Thompson said.

The community college encourages students to apply for federal student aid, grants and scholarships so they do not have to take out student loans, Thompson said.

At Ivy Tech Sellersburg, 1,667 students have taken out federal unsubsidized loans, and the average student debt is about $2,200.

Thompson emphasizes that many Ivy Tech Sellersburg students receive need-based federal and state grants that prevent them from borrowing. Students receive an average of $3,200 in federal grants.

“Our average for grants is higher than our average for loans, and we really do try to push grant funding first and student loan subsidization second,” she said. Student loans are not automatically applied to students’ financial aid package, and Ivy Tech wants students to be in the “driver’s seat in terms of how many loans, if any, they want to receive,” she said.

Ivy Tech is also focused on educating students about what it takes to fund their education through grant and student loan counseling, she said.

“We believe this could lead to lower levels of student borrowing, which obviously contributes to lower levels of student debt,” Thompson said.

Taking dual credits in high school is one way students can save money, she said. Students can receive college credits from Ivy Tech for free, and they have the opportunity to receive an associate’s degree before they graduate from high school.

“It’s literally fast-forwarding their college track by two years,” she said.

Thompson said there is also need for every student to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and applications for scholarships, even if they don’t think they will qualify.

“We really want to increase the utilization of our scholarships — a lot of times, we don’t get enough applicants,” she said.
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