The Indiana College Completion Report 2020—recently published by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education—revealed that the 21st Century Scholars Program at Indiana University Bloomington had the highest graduation rate among all Indiana programs.
Designed to paint a picture of college completion to advance Indiana's collective efforts to boost education attainment, "the report contains an outline of the program for the entire state," Vincent Isom, director of the 21st Century Scholars Program, said. The program helps low income and underrepresented students graduate in a four-year timeframe with the skills they need to enter the workforce.
By 2030, over 18 million US citizens will lack the credentials employers seek. The state's goal for the Commission for Higher Education is to ensure that at least 60% of the population will have a higher-ed degree or credentials.
The annual report discusses various aspects of higher education within Indiana and the movement toward articulated state goals. The report also shows assessment methods for the 21st Century Scholar Programs across the state, and part of that assessment is the graduation rate for the programs across Indiana campuses.
Isom says the IUB program placed number 1 for four-year graduation rates. "We are the largest program in Indiana with over 3,000 students, and because of that, it's hard to maintain the highest graduation rate. However, we are proud of the work we have done to ensure our students graduate within four years."
Jen Berry, the lead advisor for the 21st Century Scholars Program, says that one reason for the program's continual improvement is Isom himself. "Ever since Vince began this position, the program has improved tremendously. He really cares about the program and its students, and his direct methods, which make information easily available to others, is very beneficial."
Berry also mentions one reason the program continues to be successful is the culturally diverse students and staff. "When we walk into the room," Berry says, "they see a different kind of representation in higher ed. Diversity helps with approachability, and new students of color see our office and our leadership as folks who they can go to for help."
Berry, who has been with the 21st Century Scholars Program since 2013, has watched as support has grown over the years and looks forward to seeing continued growth in the coming years. "I hope we can move forward and add more staff members to enrich opportunities for the scholars," she said. "Our goal is to create a program that meets the needs of students."
Isom says the program works to provide as much support as possible for its students to prevent many situations that cause students to drop out or not graduate on time. Partnerships with departments such as tutoring services and overseas studies help students find support across campus and discover new opportunities creating an environment where students have the support needed to succeed.
"We are a very diverse population that makes up the 21st century scholars," Isom said. "I am very proud of what we have accomplished, and we will continue to strive to improve our services and support our students throughout their entire undergraduate career."