Good, not-so-good news on college enrollment


Indiana hasn’t had much to celebrate in recent years when it comes to the overall academic achievement of its young people, but the state had a faint flicker of good news on that front recently.

“After more than a decade of declines, Indiana’s college-going rate and overall college enrollment are starting to turn around,” the Indiana Commission for Higher Education reported in a news release issued Oct. 19.

There’s good news and not-so-good news in that phrasing and in the state’s findings.

The good news is the rate of college-going students in this year’s report did not decline as it chronically has for years.

The not-so-good news is just 53% of 2021 high school graduates statewide went on to post-secondary education — the same number a year earlier and the lowest in far more than a decade.

In Jackson County, the number of college-going students actually declined in this year’s report: Just 47.3% of the graduating class of 2021 was enrolled in college, down from 49.8% a year earlier. Back in 2008, 57.4% of county graduates went on to college, below the state rate of 66%, according to the Commission for Higher Education data.

Also in 2021, 84.9% of the graduating class of Trinity Lutheran was enrolled in college, followed by Brownstown Central 56.2%, Seymour 41.5%, Crothersville 41.4% and Medora 20%.

Meanwhile, perhaps the brightest note in the commission’s report was this: Last year, Indiana saw the largest year-over-year college enrollment increase since 2010, as college enrollment increased by nearly 5,000 students, or 2%, compared to the fall 2022 school year. 2023 is “the first year enrollment in Indiana has increased in the past 13 years,” the commission reported.

After last year’s sharp decline in the college-going rate, it wasn’t just educators sounding the alarm but also employers, elected officials, the business community and others who feared this trend endangered not just the state’s long-term prospects but also the prospects of individuals and communities.

Students should realize that education is without question the most reliable predicter of future earnings. Consider as an example that while the statewide college-going rate hovers at 53%, in Indiana’s most prosperous county, Hamilton, 74.3% of students went on to college in 2021.

But there are far more reasons for students to go to college than the promise of someday making more money. Education is also a key to a better understanding of one’s gifts, talents, potential and the world around them.

Clearly, in Indiana and in Jackson County and surrounding counties, there is work to do in educating young people about the value of education. Cost should not dissuade bright students, particularly those of limited means. Indiana, as the Commission for Higher Education notes, ranks first in the Midwest and fifth in the nation in providing students with need-based financial aid.

And locally, students have an opportunity to get a firsthand look at what going to college might look like. Indiana University Columbus this week hosted the first of several Get to Know IU Columbus events, inviting prospective students to explore the campus and learn about programs. Additional upcoming dates are Nov. 2, Nov. 10 and Dec. 5. More details are available at

Free opportunities like these are great ways for students to learn firsthand, in person, how education can improve their lives and futures.

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