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By Susan C.Thomson
Indianapolis, Indiana
n its middle-age, Ivy Tech has been reborn—again. At
the beginning of the current academic year, what began as a
vocational-technical school 43 years ago and grew into Ivy
Tech State College, with 23 locations around the state, became
Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana.
New signs on the campuses, and a crisp new green and
white logo, proclaim the new name. A $500,000 statewide
advertising campaign—featuring smiling young people and
accompanied, in its radio and television versions, by a soft
rock beat—drives home a newmessage: The “new Ivy Tech”
is affordable, close to home, the starting point of choice for
students who want to prepare for good jobs or transfer to four-
year colleges.
For the college, the name change comes as just desserts, a
belated recognition of the kind of school it pretty much already
For the state, community college is a whole new concept,
something it never had before.
And for Stan Jones, Indiana’s higher education
commissioner, it’s about time. “I think Indiana has always had
a good higher education system,” he said. “One of the things
we didn’t have was a community college (system).”
Ivy Tech is the latest andmost visible of a synergistic mix of
initiatives that for 15 years or so have been reinventing Indiana
public schooling from grade school through college. Chief
among the others:
• An inventive program that allows all of the state’s low-
income students to qualify for college scholarships.
• Stiff statewide requirements for college preparation in
high school.
• An organization
that, by state law, brings
a wide range of interest
groups together to hash
out educational policy.
As recently as the
early 1990s, the state’s
higher education
systemwas behind
the national curve
in attracting and
graduating students.
With less than 15 percent of residents 25 or older holding
a bachelor’s degree or higher, Indiana consistently ranked
among the two or three lowest states in the educational level
of its adults. Only 13 percent of its high school graduates
had studied a college-prep curriculum. Only half were going
straight on to postsecondary education—a college-going rate
that put the state in 34th place nationally.
Winter 2006
Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars
A new community college system and college prep curriculum are improving the state’s position
Such were the
outward signs of
what Jones and
others describe as a
perception, pervasive
in Indiana, that high
school graduates
didn’t need to go to
college as long as they
could get good jobs in
manufacturing. But as
that long-dominant
sector of the state’s
economy began to
rust away, it dawned
on the state’s business,
education and political
leaders that things had
to be done to change
that perception.
“What you had
in this changing
economy was a
tremendous demand
for skill improvement,”
said Steve Ferguson,
former state legislator,
former member
of the Indiana
Commission for Higher Education, and now president of
Indiana University’s Board of Trustees and chairman of Cook
Group Inc., a worldwide medical products company based in
By 2002, the state’s statistics were improving dramatically.
Two-thirds of high school graduates were earning a college-
prep diploma, and 62.4 percent, the tenth best rate in the
nation, were going immediately to college. Even though
Indiana’s population was growing more slowly than the
nation as a whole, enrollment in the state’s public colleges and
universities was increasing at a faster rate than the national
These new claims to fame came in addition to one
important asset that Indiana already had: one of the nation’s
most generous financial aid programs for college students. It
was then—and continues to be—rated among the nation’s ten
largest by the National Association of State Student Grant and
Aid Programs. Unlike states that pour much of their financial
aid intomerit scholarships, Indiana spends about 90 percent of
its resources on need-based help.
In 1990 Indiana took a major new step in that direction
with the launch of 21st Century Scholars, a program that
In the biotechnology lab at Ivy Tech Community College, in
Indianapolis, instructor Todd Murphy works with students
Lori Bancroft and Kim McKinney.
Ivy Tech State
College has been
transformed into
Indiana’s first
system of two-year
community colleges.
Photos by John Starkey, Black Star, for CrossTalk