Indiana State University Newsroom

College Challenge Program aims to keep higher ed affordable

September 18, 2017

Ezra Fritz entered Indiana State University as a freshman this fall. On the first day of classes he became a sophomore, thanks to the Early Indiana State Partnership (EISP).

The program allows high school juniors and seniors in the Vigo County School Corp. to earn 30 college credit hours through a combination of courses taught at their high school and summer classes at State.

"That first day they are on campus for the fall semester we flip the switch, and they are sophomores," said Jill Blunk, director of the College Challenge Program in ISU's Office of Extended Learning.

At $25 per credit hour, EISP is a bargain, said Fritz, a West Vigo High School graduate who is paying his own way through college.

"I'm one of 10 kids in my family. This program has made it a lot cheaper for me," said the mechanical engineering technology major.

"The financial piece is a great thing for the students," Blunk said. Completing the EISP program costs about $2,000 compared with $18,000 for a traditional freshman year of tuition, room and board. Students who qualify for free- or reduced-lunch get a full waiver for the courses they complete at their high school.

The program is very much in line with Indiana State President Daniel Bradley's focus on helping students with affordability and offering opportunity to at-risk students.

It is part of State's College Challenge Program, which enables high school students to earn college credit in courses taught by high school teachers at their local schools. The student earns high school and college credit simultaneously.

Eighteen schools participate in the program, with 1,800 students enrolled in classes last year (almost triple from five years ago). Those students earned more than more than 7,000 ISU credit hours, Blunk said.

The more advanced partnership with Vigo County evolved because the school corporation "had grown the course offerings so much that we had really robust options for the students. It was the next natural step," Blunk said. Other schools have expressed interest in expanding their offerings to allow students to gain the 30 credit hours needed to complete freshmen-year requirements.

"Participating in this program with ISU is a win/win for our high school students," said Karen Goeller, Vigo County School Corp. deputy superintendent.

"They are able to remain in high school during their senior year and simultaneously earn college credits. The program enables students to experience the rigors and new challenges of college while still in the familiar high school setting," she said.

The courses available run the gamut, Blunk said, from foundational studies courses like algebra and U.S. history to fashion textile courses.

While 26 of the EISP students are enrolled at ISU this fall, the credit hours they earned also will transfer to all Indiana public college and university campuses, assuming adequate grades.

Mara Johnson graduated from Terre Haute South in June and is majoring in psychology and minoring in economics at Indiana State. Last summer, she took sociology and gender studies courses; and this summer she completed a health class and a survey of American music history.

She said the EISP program is valuable in several ways.

"Not only did it help me find my way around campus, the college classroom experience also helped my research skills, taught me how to take better notes and how to study," she said.

"In the summer classes, students connect with the ISU faculty teaching them, and they have the opportunity to meet with academic advisors so they can really have firm foundation for their college experience," Blunk said.

Students in the program receive an ISU identification card, can use the library, attend lecture series, go to games, use the tutoring center and have access to other services.

Fifty students enrolled in the first EISP cohort in the fall 2015; 51 enrolled in fall 2016; and 60 were expected to enroll this fall.

EISP and College Challenge both provide assistance to educators who want to teach in the programs, Blunk said.

That piece is valuable, Goeller said.

"The VCSC very much appreciates the efforts made by ISU to help high school teachers get the credentials they need to teach the courses for college credit. We are fortunate to have ISU so involved in helping teachers with college costs and with program training," Goeller said.

In Indiana, a master's degree isn't a requirement to be a high school setting, but it is a requirement for the College Challenge program, Blunk explained.

"We offer assistance to teachers pursuing that goal," she said. If the teacher signs a developmental plan committing to teaching in the program for three years, ISU covers the tuition cost for the courses those teachers need to qualify to teach the college-level courses.

"This has been a great opportunity for us to partner with Vigo County Schools and it's a great opportunity to make a connection with these students and make them feel like Sycamores," Blunk said.


Photo: -- Mara Johnson and Ezra Fritz participate in the College Challenge Program this summer. 

Media contact: Libby Roerig, director of communications and media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or