Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana State one of three recipients of inaugural student success grant

February 6, 2018

Indiana education leader Stan Jones' name is once again synonymous with providing opportunity, this time through a recently established grant program Indiana State University will help pilot.

The grant -- awarded to just three institutions in the state -- will be used to introduce 75 freshman and sophomore 21st Century Scholars pursuing arts and sciences degrees to their future careers.

"Career readiness is increasingly important. It's getting national attention; it's getting state attention," said Josh Powers, associate vice president of academic affairs at Indiana State. "We wanted to see if we could link the good work we're doing with 21st Century scholars with an intentional career readiness opportunity for a particular subset of 21st Century scholars that are in the College of Arts and Sciences."

Indiana State has been making major moves with student success in recent years. The university's overall four-year graduation rate is up nearly three percentage points from 2016 and up 9.3 percentage points in three years. Whereas three years ago about one in five students graduated in four years, today, it's roughly one in just over three students do.

Indiana State has also been able to improve the four-year graduation rate for 21st Century students to where it is "almost as high as the graduation rate for the entire student population," Powers said. The four-year 21st Century Scholar graduation rate is up 7.3 percentage points to 26.1 percent, roughly two-and-a-half times the percentage increase for the campus as a whole.

Powers said while degrees in arts and sciences are sometimes viewed as having limited job prospects, that perception simply isn't true. Through the grant, Sycamores will be able to meet and talk to people who have good jobs -- and some with the same college majors as the students, Powers said.

"What we're going to do is to expose the students early in their collegiate studies to the world of work and meet people working in jobs with those majors, including where on the surface they would not expect it such as in advanced manufacturing," he said.

Stan Jones made a significant mark as an Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education by becoming a driving force behind Indiana's 21st Century Scholars program, which was created in 1990 and helps low-income students earn a college degree.

Students can sign up for the 21st Century Scholars program as early as the seventh grade, and most receive support to get into college, tuition to pay for college and support to receive a college degree. More than 30,000 low-income students in Indiana have earned a college degree through a 21st Century Scholarship.

When Jones died in 2017, the Stan Jones Student Success Grant was created in his honor. Powers thought it was important Indiana State apply for the inaugural grant because of the university's large percentage of scholars.

"Stan Jones was a leader in the state, so we wanted to pursue it," Powers said. "(Indiana State) has among the highest number and percentage of 21st Century scholars on a singular campus in Indiana."

Aaron Slocum, coordinator of Indiana State's 21st Century Scholars program, said the grant will be used to pay for the expenses of field trips so the experiences come at no cost to the students.

"This grant is important to ISU because it gives the opportunity to allow 21st Century Scholars, who are obtaining an arts and science degree, the opportunity to explore different jobs that are available to them," Slocum said. "It also allows students to assess their strengths and weaknesses utilizing a tool called StrengthsQuest."

Others who partnered to obtain the grant include Teresa Dwyer, assistant director for employee relations at Indiana State's Career Center, and Jaime Frey, director of career development at Ivy Tech Wabash Valley. Slocum, Dwyer and Frey will be managing the project's implementation.

"This grant is a collaboration project with Ivy Tech Community College here in Terre Haute whose students will also be participating," Slocum said. "Our hope is we can strengthen the pipeline from Ivy Tech to ISU."

The 21st Century Scholars program began in 1990. The scholarship component goes beyond paying college tuition and fees, as the program also has requirements that the enrolled middle and high school students keep their grades up, avoid drugs and alcohol, complete college-readiness activities, and when in college, stay on track to earn their degree on time.

Approximately 110,000 Indiana students are currently enrolled in the program.

Jones believed a college degree was more important than ever before when the program was created, according to a 2015 interview.

"A college degree was becoming an ever more important milestone for those hoping to secure good jobs to support families, and Indiana was looking for ways to make sure low-income Hoosiers had affordable access to higher education," Jones said at the time. "At the same time, our state had an equally challenging problem: Far too many students were failing to meet the bare minimum criteria for success - a high school diploma."

That's why the program required students to apply in middle school.

"That fundamentally changed the high school experience for these low-income students," Jones said. "Knowing they had the promise of a full-tuition scholarship upon graduation, Indiana's scholars took better courses in high school, studied harder and earned more meaningful diplomas that better prepared them for college."


Media contact: Josh Powers, associate vice president for academic affairs, Indiana State University, 812-237-8378 or

Story Highlights

The grant -- awarded to just three institutions in the state -- will be used to introduce 75 freshman and sophomore 21st Century Scholars pursuing arts and sciences degrees to their future careers.

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