21st Century Scholars: Supporting Dreams and Success

Posted by Teresa Lubbers on

Since 1990, Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program has helped thousands of low-income Hoosier students aspire to and afford a college education. Currently, there are over 110,000 21st Century Scholars enrolled across the state from 7th grade through college.

A national model for student success, the Scholars program has evolved over its 26-year history with one goal in mind: to get more Hoosiers into and through college. It’s moved from an entitlement program to an earned benefit. Scholars must work hard by keeping their grades up, avoiding drugs and alcohol, completing the Scholar Success Program (12 college and career readiness activities all Scholars must complete during high school, beginning with the class of 2017) and staying on track to earn their degrees on time in college.

The 21st Century Scholars program is more than just a list of requirements. The program offers the potential to transform lives. Requiring enrollment in middle school helps to change student perceptions at an early age. Once enrolled in the program, students know that college is attainable—a mindset many low-income students lack largely because of cost. Looking at Scholars, we know that:

  • The average 21st Century Scholar’s reported income is 75% lower than the average financial aid filer.
  • Scholars are 1.4 times more likely to be the first in their family to go to college than all Indiana financial aid filers.

The picture here is clear: this is an empowerment program for low-income Hoosiers. And the payoffs are huge.

There are a lot of ways to talk about these payoffs. We can talk about the dollar amounts Scholars are eligible to receive: up to 100% tuition for up to four years at an eligible Indiana public college, and a portion of tuition at eligible private and proprietary institutions. Or, we can talk about performance. 21st Century Scholars are more likely to go to college than all Indiana students, and they are more likely to be college ready and graduate from college than their low-income peers.

Perhaps most telling, though, are the stories of the thousands of 21st Century Scholar Alumni. At least 30,000 low-income Hoosier students have earned a college degree with a 21st Century Scholarship, and each has a unique story to tell.

Scholar alumni are living and working all over Indiana and scattered throughout the United States. They work in many different sectors and represent a wide array of passions and perspectives. From lawyers to PhD candidates to secret service agents, 21st Century Scholar Alumni are making their dreams come true every day.

Take Tiffany Coleman, who earned her J.D. from Indiana University Maurer School of Law. She now works as an associate attorney at Mallor and Grodner LLP. She didn’t always know what she wanted to do, or if she could even go to college, but once she received her acceptance letter to the Scholars program, college became her only path. According to Tiffany, “Without it [21st Century Scholars], students like myself would never have a chance to work toward their dreams.”

Or, take Monique Armstrong, who is the executive director of Motivate Our Minds, an organization that serves first through eighth grade children in Muncie and Delaware County. According to Monique, knowing she was a Scholar in 8th grade caused her to feel “a sense of accountability and security.” She says, “I immediately understood that in addition to my community and family, Indiana was going to invest in my education.”

Many Scholar Alumni have even chosen to give back to the program.

Omar Diaz and Tonya Hall, for example, work with 21st Century Scholars at Purdue University Northwest— Calumet and Marian University respectively. Jarod Wilson serves as Manager of Postsecondary Outreach and Engagement with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Five ScholarCorps AmeriCorps members serving during the 2016-2017 school year are Scholar Alumni. Others volunteer and mentor current Scholars.

These Alumni all recognize the importance of the program. According to Omar, “[I] owe credit to the Scholars program for my current career path and discovery of my passion: serving students pursuing higher education.”

These stories, and countless others, reflect the path that Indiana offers to 21st Century Scholars: work hard and stay on track and the state will invest in you and your future to help you achieve your dreams. For the tens of thousands of 21st Century Scholars who are on this path, this is a life-changing opportunity.

To learn more about the 21st Century Scholars program and how to get involved, visit scholars.IN.gov.


2014_Teresa_Lubbers_Portrait_HiRes_PR.jpg Teresa Lubbers was appointed in 2009 to serve as Commissioner for Indiana’s Commission for Higher Education. Prior to joining the Commission, Teresa served in the Indiana State Senate for 17 years, leading on education and economic development issues as Chair of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee. Teresa is the co-founder of the Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series for women. She holds an undergraduate degree from Indiana University and a Master in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. 


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