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Report shows connection between diploma type and college success

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Two-thirds of Indiana graduating seniors went to college in 2012, according to a report out today from the Commission on Higher Education, but about four in 10 of them were not ready for college-level work and needed remedial classes.

The percentage of students who went to college was up slightly — the figure was two points lower at 64 percent in 2011.

It made a big difference what sort of diploma students received. Nearly all of those who earned academic honors diplomas — 93 percent — arrived at college without needing any remediation, while only 62 percent of those with Core 40 diplomas and 22 percent of those with general diplomas managed to avoid remedial classes.

“Far too many of Hoosier students continue to need remediation, which extends the time it takes them to graduate, increases the cost of their degrees and reduces the likelihood that they graduate at all,” Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said in a statement.

The good news is college readiness was growing some for the Core 40 (up 3 points) and general (up 4 points) diplomas.

Still, the Commission estimates remedial courses for the class of 2012 cost taxpayers $78 million. And students struggle in their first year, completing an average of just 21 credits with an average grade point average of 2.6.

In Marion County, about 25 percent of 2012 graduates earned honors diplomas, while 59 percent earned Core 40 and 26 percent earned general diplomas.

Washington Township has the highest percentage of graduates with honors diplomas at 41.6 percent, followed by Speedway (39.4 percent), Lawrence Township (30.4 percent), Franklin Township (26.7 percent) and Wayne Township (26.3 percent). IPS has the fewest at 14 percent.

Perry Township gave the most general diplomas, about 24 percent of the 2012 class, followed by Warren Township (22 percent) and Pike Township (21.8 percent). At 15 percent with general diplomas, IPS was middle of the pack in Marion County.

The number of full-time college students from the class of 2012 is also lower than in prior years at 80 percent, down 10 points from 2007. Full-time students are more likely to graduate college.

The push for students to study science, technology, engineering and math may be having an impact, as those fields accounted for 18 percent of the college majors of the class of 2012, the top area of student focus. Health (17 percent), arts and humanities (15 percent) and undecided (15 percent) were the next most popular majors. At 6 percent, education was among the least popular fields of study, tied with trades.

Indiana has moved in recent years to require students complete the Core 40 diploma. In order to opt for a general diploma, students must demonstrate that they are following an alternative graduation plan that meets all the state’s requirements in basic subjects.

With courses required in subjects like chemistry, physics, economics and Algebra II, Core 40 is considered more rigorous than the general diploma.

A 2012 study by IUPUI found even a Core 40 may not be enough to guarantee a student succeeds in college. Marion County graduates in the study significantly increased their chances of going to, and graduating, from college if they completed the honors diploma. There was little difference in college attainment and completion for students who earned a Core 40 vs. a general diploma.

Read the Commission’s report here.

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