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Jen Thomas

Last modified: Thursday, April 26, 2012

Indiana students fail to prepare for academic, workplace success, IU study finds

Students recognize the need for postsecondary education but don't ready themselves for the future

April 25, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana high school students seem to have gotten the message that they need postsecondary education to compete for jobs, but many aren't doing what it takes to prepare themselves to succeed at the next level.

That's the conclusion of a study released today by the Indiana University Public Policy Institute, a part of IU's School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The findings are based on surveys of ninth- and 11th-graders conducted by Learn More Indiana, a collaborative effort of the Commission for Higher Education, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana.

John Krauss

John L. Krauss

Print-Quality Photo

The report added that current levels of educational attainment have reduced per-capita income and wage rates in Indiana. At a time when more and more jobs require some postsecondary learning -- a four-year degree, two-year degree, technical degree or certification -- Indiana's workforce already is woefully unprepared. According to the 2010 American Community Survey, Indiana ranks 29th in the nation in the percentage of population with an associate degree and 44th in the percentage of the population holding a bachelor's degree or higher.

"Improved educational attainment is the best route to economic prosperity for individuals and employers," said Lumina Foundation President Jamie Merisotis, who serves on the IU Public Policy Institute Board of Advisors. "Hoosiers seem to have gotten this message, but this report clearly shows there's still plenty of work to be done to make sure our citizens are competitive in the global marketplace."

"Students say the right things but aren't backing their words with action," said IU Public Policy Institute Director John L. Krauss. "This leaves them unprepared for the next level of learning or to enter the workforce."

As an example, Krauss pointed to data showing that fewer than 75 percent of all students plan to take math during their senior year. This number falls to less than 60 percent of students who say they plan to attend a two-year college. For a growing number of degree programs and occupations, math courses and aptitude are required, and gaps between math courses and training often cause students to forget what they had previously learned.

As a result, students pursuing postsecondary degrees and credentials find themselves having to spend time and money studying things again that they should carry over from high school.

"Recent remedial statistics show that nearly 25 percent of Core 40 [Indiana's basic diploma requirement] graduates require remedial coursework in the first year of college," the report states. "This is both an unnecessary expense and significantly reduces the likelihood of a student completing a degree program."

One reason for this lack of achievement seems to be that students are failing to take advantage of the resources available to help prepare them for life after high school. Although the Learn More program provides tools to help students stay on track, low numbers of students are doing basic things such as regularly updating state-mandated graduation plans, working toward earning a Core 40 with Academic Honors diploma, or completing an online career interest survey.

"It's clear that more and more young people realize they need a postsecondary education to compete in today's marketplace," said Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers. "Now we need to make sure they begin their postsecondary careers fully prepared for success at that level and beyond."

The full report is available online.

The IU Public Policy Institute is a collaborative, multidisciplinary research institute within the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. The institute serves as an umbrella organization for research centers affiliated with SPEA, including the Center for Urban Policy and the Environment and the Center for Criminal Justice Research. The institute also supports the Indiana Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.