In May, Indiana Governer Eric Holcomb signed House Bill 1449 into law, ensuring eligible Hoosier students are automatically enrolled in Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars Program. This statewide grant program is designed to make college more affordable for students by providing up to 100% tuition at participating two and four-year Indiana colleges and universities.
State lawmakers expect this shift will make higher education a more attainable goal for eligible students in Indiana who may not have otherwise known they qualified. IUPUI leaders agree.
“Going into this kind of automatic system will be very helpful to identify students that in the past probably were not enrolled but were eligible and met the requirements to be in the program,” Phyllis Washington, director of the 21st Century Scholars Program at IUPUI, said.
Having worked with the program since 2006, Washington has seen firsthand the impact the program makes on low-income students who might not have thought college was financially possible for them.
“The commonality among our students is that many of them are under-resourced, and truly our students would not be able to attend if they did not have financial assistance,” Washington said. “That is the greatest benefit for them; to be able to experience and engage in educational opportunities they couldn’t afford.”
At IUPUI, the program provides students with community and additional support navigating college, including tutoring, peer mentoring, financial aid guidance, career preparation workshops, and more.
The program is an especially strong support for underrepresented students. Of the 1,823 21st Century Scholars enrolled at IUPUI in the spring semester, 68% were students of color, compared to the 41% of students of color within the overall IUPUI student population.
Washington hopes that, with the help of the Indiana Commissioner of Higher Education, students can maintain their enrollment, receive the scholarship, and complete their degree program. She also noted the commitment from Division of Undergraduate Education leaders has been instrumental in helping IUPUI's program grow over the years.
Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Christina Downey calls automatic enrollment a game-changer for low-income students to not miss out on the benefits of this program.
Downey was unaware of her own eligibility to enroll in this program during her time as a student and hopes automatic enrollment ensures that future students are able to take advantage of this opportunity.
“There are thousands of families like mine across Indiana with talented, motivated students but who just don’t have the wherewithal to investigate these programs and complete steps to sign up,” Downey said. “Now, those kids and families will be brought into the program through automatic eligibility, and when they reach high school, they’ll be able to attend campuses like IU Indianapolis, or IUPUI, with so much less stress and financial risk.”
Downey praised Washington for her work with the 21st Century Scholarship Program and mentioned Washington received a student-voted inaugural DUE Epitome Award this past spring for outstanding support and engagement with students.
“This award is bestowed annually solely by student nominations, so the fact that students selected Ms. Washington as their greatest advocate across campus speaks to her incredible commitment to their success,” Downey said.
The new law took effect July 1, paving the way for more students to succeed in college and receive support from resources like IUPUI's 21st Century Scholars Program.