Foundation, Partners Encourage Enrollment in 21st Century Scholars
June 30 is the deadline for 8th graders to enroll in Indiana's free college tuition program
Wednesday, June 30, is a critical deadline for students who are eligible for free college tuition through Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program, and a group of local community leaders want to be sure that families take advantage of this golden opportunity.
Led by the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, the 21st Century Scholar Success Coalition includes teams from local public school corporations, Indiana University South Bend, Ivy Tech South Bend, South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce, United Way of St. Joseph County, and numerous local mentoring organizations, among others. These partners are working to provide students with comprehensive support and encouragement as they enroll in the 21st Century Scholars program, achieve scholarships, complete their degrees and advance to well-paying careers. The efforts of the coalition are being supported by a $4,000,000 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.’s Giving Indiana Funds for Tomorrow (GIFT VII) initiative, made to the Community Foundation in December 2020.
St. Joseph County continues to struggle with high rates of generational poverty. Its median household income significantly trails state and national averages. The pandemic and resulting recession make the work of the 21st Century Scholar Success Initiative more urgent than ever, since improving educational attainment creates the most reliable path out of poverty. State data shows that students who complete the 21st Century Scholars program are on track to close the achievement gap between them and their more affluent peers by 2025.
As of June 1, 2021, only 40% of eligible eighth grade students in St. Joseph County are enrolled the 21st Century Scholars program.
What is the 21st Century Scholarship?
A national model for success, Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program started in 1990. It is an early-college promise program designed to help ensure that every Hoosier student can afford the opportunity provided by a college education. Today, eligible students who maintain the Scholar Pledge to excellence in school and life receive a scholarship for up to four years of up to 100% tuition and some regularly assessed fees, such as technology, student-activity and health-services fees, at an eligible Indiana college or university after they graduate from high school.
This means that 21st Century Scholars graduate with little or no debt. According to 2019 data from LendEDU, the average student borrower leaves his or her campus with $29,076 in debt.
June 30: Critical Deadline
The deadline for eligible eighth grade students to enroll in the 21st Century Scholars program is Wednesday, June 30. Students who miss this deadline cannot enroll later.
“If you don’t enroll your eighth grader by June 30, this opportunity to receive free college tuition through the 21st Century Scholars program will be gone,” says Rose Meissner, president of the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County. “Even if you’re not sure your child will choose to go to college, please keep this opportunity alive. Open that door.”
To be eligible to enroll in the program, a student must be a resident of Indiana, both when applying and when receiving the scholarship; be enrolled in the seventh or eighth grade at an Indiana public or private school accredited by the Indiana Department of Education; and be a member of a family that meets the income eligibility guidelines.
How to Enroll
Parents can enroll their children online at https://learnmoreindiana.org/scholars/enroll/. Necessary information includes the student’s Social Security number, date of birth and address; the parent or guardian’s Social Security number, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number if applicable; previous year gross income amounts for all members of the household (example: if you are applying after December 31, 2020, use 2020 amounts), and a valid email address. In some situations, teachers can submit applications on behalf of their students.
“It can be hard for middle-school students to envision themselves as college students,” Meissner says, “but the 21st Century Scholars program puts this dream within reach. So many students use it to earn a college degree, graduate debt-free, and achieve a good jobs. You can, too.”