Complete College on Time with 15 Credits Per Semester

On-time graduation rates at public Indiana colleges and universities are staggeringly low. Only one in 10 students at two-year colleges finish a degree on time, and only three in 10 students finish a four-year degree on time, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s 2014 College Completion Reports.

The reports provide a robust, comprehensive picture of student success at each public college and university in Indiana. They include data on transfer and part-time students and disaggregated data by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status to focus attention on persistent achievement gaps.

Statewide, there’s a 24-point completion gap at two-year colleges between the highest-performing racial/ethnic group and the lowest-performing group. At four-year colleges, the gap is 31 points. Additionally, less than 4% of Pell grant recipients graduate on time from two-year colleges. About 17% of students receiving this need-based grant graduate on time from four-year colleges.

Why do these low graduation rates matter? First, graduating on time yields greater returns for students by lowering their cost per degree. The estimated cost of an additional year of schooling to a student is $50,000 in tuition, fees and lost potential income. What’s more: Indiana college graduates borrow over $27,000 for a four-year degree. As loan default rates rise, so does the importance of cutting college costs. The surest way to lower a student’s cost per degree is to finish sooner.

Second, institutions and the state bear significant costs for extra semesters as well, in lost productivity and additional financial aid awards. According to the College Completion Reports, four-year schools spend about $62,000 for each degree produced. About 30% of students don’t complete a four-year degree within eight years, adding to productivity losses for institutions.

Of course, for many students who are working or raising families, attending part-time may be the best option. Unfortunately, as students take additional semesters and hit state and federal financial aid limits, their probability of completing the degree declines. In fact, full-time students are six times more likely to graduate with a four-year degree than part-time students. And students who invest in their education but do not receive a diploma bear the greatest lost, reaping nearly zero return on their investment, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s Return on Investment Reports.

Fortunately, the state has made great strides on both policy and institutional levels to improve completion rates. For instance, thanks to recent reforms, state financial aid now funds completed credits rather than attempted credits to incentivize completion.

Additionally, credit creep legislation cut the number of credits per degree to 120 for four-year degrees and 60 for two-year degrees. This means students who take 15 credit hours per semester set themselves up to finish on time.

As we work to combat student loan default rates and the rising costs of college, we must continue to ask how we can use dollars more efficiently. Tackling graduation rates, and ensuring those who invest in their education complete it in the shortest time possible, is imperative to minimizing those costs.

To read institution-specific data in the 2014 College Completion Reports, visit the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s web site.

Hannah Rozow is a senior at Indiana University – Bloomington and a student representative on the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Throwback Thursday: Water on the Brain

Many involved in the Indiana environmental community are likely aware of our ongoing work on a survey of Indiana water resources in an effort to gauge future supply and demand.The Chamber actually hired Bloomington-based hydrogeologist Jack Wittman for the effort. In fact, read his recent Q & A with Indy-based NUVO magazine on the issue.

Along these lines, we recently discovered a similar report from June 1953, titled “Water Resources Report to Southern Indiana Inc.” The entire document is nearly 70 pages, but here are a few notes from the general summary:

These points are held to be fundamental guides for conducting future work:

1. Present water conditions – supplies; flood damages
2. Potential long-term supply needs
3. Potential long-term supply opportunities
4. Possible reductions of flood losses
5. General benefits to entire area which may result from improvement projects

The valley-wide approach to the water problem of Southern Indiana is all-important because surface water must be the main source of supply.

It is recognized that there now is a tremendous waste of water resources in Southern Indiana. Much water is lost in flood periods during the heavy rainfall seasons of the spring and early summer while many stream beds are almost dry in late summer and fall months. Equalization of the stream flows, therefore, is taken as the key approach to the problem…

It is impossible to propose a “blanket remedy”  for water problems in Southern Indiana. IN any year, losses from drought may be just as severe as losses from flood, or greater. Any storage of water in small watersheds is of much value to farm operations. The value of farming is on equal status with that of manufacturing and commercial activities in the support of the business system.

Beer Market: Hoosier Beer Climate Continues Upswing

Business Insider recently posted a list of what’s been designated as the 20 best beers in the world. Check it out and see which one’s you’ve had — and need to try.

We’re also happy to say that Munster-based Three Floyds Brewing has two on the list. In fact, the top two beers in the world are mentioned in an anecdote from Indiana: One Pint at a Time author Douglas Wissing in an article I wrote for BizVoice last year about Indiana brewing, “Taste of Success: Local Craft Brewers Building an Industry.”

For more on the state of the industry in Indiana, see this Inside INdiana Business interview and accompanying article with Sun King Brewing founder Clay Robinson and Barnaby Struve of Three Floyds Brewing.

Indy Still Miles Behind on Mass Transit Compared to Other Cities

While mass transit in Central Indiana finally received a somewhat-limiting go-ahead from the Indiana General Assembly in the recently completed session, others with long-established systems are moving forward.

A recent Governing article noted:

  • Boston plans to extend weekend transit service until 3 a.m. Young professionals gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the longer hours for subways, light rail, streetcars and buses.

And here, it took three years to get state permission to have a local referendum to approve a system that would likely only include some faster buses (light rail not allowed). Just saying that despite Indiana being a great place to live, we’re way, way behind on this amenity.

  • London plans 24-hour weekend service on some subway lines in 2015. Chicago, New York and Philadelphia already do the same.

Why is this so important? The article notes: “As young professionals, many of whom are car-free, seek out vibrant cities in which to live and work, this is seen as a way to attract them. … Transit at all times ensures that mobility is available to everyone.”

Throwback Thursday: 75 Years Since Bremen Castings Opened its Doors

You know a company is tied to its community when the community is in its own name. We’re proud to call Bremen Castings Inc. an Indiana Chamber member, and sincerely congratulate this Northern Indiana company for its milestone this month in celebrating 75 years in business.

We featured this innovative company in BizVoice magazine last year, so check out the article. And being a social media person, I enjoy seeing how Bremen Castings honors its employees in its social media feeds. A thoughtful way to include staff in the company’s messaging. Be sure to get BCI’s updates on Twitter and Facebook.

And a release from the company offers more on its anniversary:

The iron industry has been around for generations but over the years, the face of foundries has shifted away from small, family-run businesses to large corporations.  Bremen Castings Inc. (BCI) in Bremen, Indiana, is not one of them.

The family-owned foundry will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in March and James (JB) Brown, President of Bremen Castings, credits the longevity and success of the company to its forward thinking business model, streamlined day-to-day operations, and above all, having each employee feel as though they are a member of the Bremen family.

“It is crucial for everyone to be a team member and an active citizen within our communities so we strive to cast each employee into a valuable and responsible individual,” says Brown.  “We have a set of core values that we want everyone to have and appreciate.”

Originally named, Bremen Gray Iron foundry (the name was changed to Bremen Castings Inc. in 1972), the company was established on March 17, 1939 by Ellis Brown, Charles W. Kling and Harold Heckamen with an initial investment of $10,000.  Some of the first customers included Bendix Corporation, Clark Equipment, and Ford Motor Company.

Since its inception, Bremen Castings has grown from an 800 square foot building to its current 125,000 square feet with more additions planned for the future.  The company has continued to stay at the forefront of the foundry industry, having won numerous awards for its safety, technology and environment-friendly manufacturing.  Today, Bremen is still privately owned and operated by the Brown family.

A Good Focus: Highland High School’s Parent University

Our Ready Indiana staff recently traveled to Highland High School (Lake County) to talk with parents about their children’s options post-graduation. We were so impressed the Highland guidance team brought parents in to listen to experts on different school, graduation and post-graduation topics. Sometimes we forget that students spend much more time at home than at school — and parents play a major role in students’ decisions!

In our session, we defined “middle-skill” jobs and discussed statistics showing those jobs are most in-demand in Indiana right now. We demoed www.IndianaSkills.com and also discussed the Technical Honors Diploma. We were pleased with the interest parents had in learning about ALL the options their student has during and after high school.

We hope high schools that don’t have a similar program in place consider reaching out to parents with this information so they can help their student make informed post-graduation choices.

$1.3 Billion Available to Help Communities Advance Manufacturing

The following is a release from the U.S. Office of the Federal Register:

Indiana is a manufacturing state. Now, there is federal assistance available to communities to support economic development strategies to expand manufacturing.

The Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) is a federal initiative designed to cultivate an environment for businesses to create well-paying manufacturing jobs in regions across the country, thereby accelerating the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing. IMCP rewards communities that employ best practices to attract and expand manufacturing through planning their economic development in concert with local government, business, universities, and other stakeholders. Such efforts also build on local assets and align investments to local industry needs, such as capital, workforce education, infrastructure and research.

To date, IMCP has awarded 44 communities a total of $7 million to support the creation of economic development strategies. In the newly opened second phase, communities will be able to compete for some $1.3 billion in federal dollars, and assistance from 10 cabinet departments and agencies. In addition, communities will have access to a playbook of federal economic development resources and a new data tool for assessing their manufacturing strengths. An announcement of the competition was released in December as were a Federal Register Notice, resource playbook, and data tools. Please note that, while the announcement indicates a March 14, 2014 deadline for applications, that deadline is no longer accurate and is in the process of being revised.

Learn more online.

Fighting Back Against Childhood Obesity

You’ve heard the statistics more than once: Indiana is one of the unhealthiest states in the country. In the 2013 report “F as in FAT,” our state was ranked the eighth most obese state in the nation.

Through the Wellness Council of Indiana and our own Chamber-driven efforts to get Indiana into better shape (not only economically, but also through health and wellness efforts), we talk a lot about workplace wellness and the opportunity that employers have through encouraging healthy behaviors at work.

But, we have a bigger problem than that, and it starts much earlier than working age. Childhood obesity is an epidemic not only in Indiana, but around the world. The Wall Street Journal just reported that bariatric surgery is increasingly being used as a solution to curb life-threatening obesity in children, and even toddlers, in countries such as Saudi Arabia.

Locally, a recent article in The Indianapolis Star told the story about a 14-year-old freshman named Eric, who attends Franklin Community High School. The 510-pound boy was too large for desks and chairs at the school and was increasingly withdrawn from his classmates, many of whom teased the boy for his girth.

But one teacher pulled him aside and asked what was going on. It turned out the child had lost his father and then broken his leg, leading to surgeries and sedentary living – two crushing factors that contributed to his weight gain.

The teacher reached out to an upperclassman to begin working with the boy; his classmates and other staff members also became involved and began influencing a healthy lifestyle of walking and exercise and good nutrition.

The Star reports that the story has gained national attention, and an H.H. Gregg executive is donating a treadmill and exercise equipment to the school. Even Subway spokesman Jared Fogle (famous for dropping a serious amount of weight through eating healthy Subway sandwiches and walking) has contacted the teachers involved to speak to classes at the school.  A local hospital has offered to teach Eric’s family about healthy nutrition and cooking.

While this is just one story out of many relating to childhood obesity, it is an important example of how positive, lasting change can occur – through education and support from parents, peers,  schools, communities and even businesses.

By making this everyone’s responsibility and encouraging our youngest citizens to become healthy adults, we have a real opportunity to curb this growing problem.

What can you do to help support this change?

Hats Off to Hoosier Life Sciences Companies

It was a race against time when I rushed into my boss’ office to share new statistics on life sciences released by BioCrossroads in partnership with the Indiana Business Research Center at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Why the hurry? We were seconds away from sending the March-April edition of BizVoice® magazine, which features life sciences, to the printer.

Alas, I was too late!

Sometimes you can’t beat the clock; it’s one of the perils of working in the magazine world. But that doesn’t diminish the value of our special BizVoice issue, now available online and on the way to your mailbox for our print subscribers. It tells compelling stories of the companies – and people – making discoveries and advancing the life sciences field.

A roundtable discussion focused on growing Indiana’s life sciences advantages includes insights from panelists on opportunities, challenges, collaboration, funding and more.

A few highlights from the BioCrossroads report (data is from 2012, the most recent year it is available):

  • Annual economic impact: $55-plus billion (up from $50 billion)
  • Workforce: 55,000 employees at nearly 1,900 companies
  • Annual wages: $89,056
  • Worldwide exports: Indiana ranks second (behind California), with more than $9.7 billion in life sciences products each year. That’s one-third of Indiana’s total exports.

Life sciences is changing – and saving – people’s lives. Thank you to all in our state who are helping make it happen. And keep the innovation coming!

Most Small Businesses Really Are Small

Indiana Department of Workforce Development statistics for the first quarter of 2013 revealed that of nearly 160,000 businesses in the state, more than 87,000 had four or fewer employees. Building Indiana magazine published this breakdown:

  • 0 to 4 employees: 87,211 businesses; 54.5% of total
  • 5 to 9 employees: 28,258; 17.7%
  • 10 to 19 employees: 20,160; 12.6%
  • 20 to 49 employees: 14,328; 9.0%
  • 50 to 99 employees: 5,451; 3.4%
  • 100-plus employees: 4,529; 2.8%
  • Total: 159,947 businesses