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click image ndiana Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers said during a speech on Wednesday that post-secondary education is the key to job creation and economic security in Indiana. - PHOTO BY LESLEY WEIDENBENER, THESTATEHOUSEFILE.COM

By Sarah Seward

Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers said in a speech Wednesday night that post-secondary degrees - through technical schools or four-year universities - are the key to creating jobs and maintaining job security for Hoosiers.

"It is not an overstatement to say that Indiana's future - the kind of state we will be - has more to do with education more than anything," Lubbers said.

During the first ever State of Higher Education address, Lubbers called to action Indiana lawmakers as well as Indiana colleges and students.

Lubbers first asked that the General Assembly sustain support for a performance-based funding formula that rewards colleges for graduating students in on time.

Next Lubbers asked that lawmakers boost funding for state universities.

"Yes, there will be a cost associated with the increasing degree production and education attainment levels," said Lubbers, "but we must pay for what we value to keep pace with the growing workforce demand for skilled college graduates."

Lastly she proposed that the General Assembly to create college completion incentives for students.

"The financial need of the student has been and should continue to be the foundation of our state aid system in Indiana," Lubbers said. "But we have an opportunity to encourage and reward Hoosiers for making smarter choices and staying on track for success."

Lubber's proposed incentives would be based on on-time degree completion and academic performance.

"More than ever education is dividing our country and state between the haves and the haves not, between those who have greater opportunities for economic independence and a high quality of life and those with limited choices and few options," Lubbers said.

"If we recognize that higher education is the prescription for individual opportunity and a strong economy, we must have the courage and will to take action," she said.

Some Indiana lawmakers are already planning legislation that align with Lubber's call to action.

Rep. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, is expected to introduce a bill this General Assembly that makes changes to the Frank O'Bannon scholarship program in order to encourage thousands of students to earn higher grades and complete college faster. The higher education commission backs the proposal.

Last year, Gov. Mitch Daniels pushed a "credit creep" bill into law, which is meant to limit the number of classes students need to graduate. Gov.-elect Mike Pence has also called for rewarding students that graduate early or on time and rewarding colleges and universities that increase on-time degree completion.

A response panel consisting of Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis; Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce; Beverley Pitts, president emeritus at the University of Indianapolis; and Bill Stanczykiewitcz, president of the Indiana Youth Institute.

Sarah Seward is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.
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