INDIANAPOLIS — Jóse Goméz Márquez came to America from Peru in 2003, eventually settling in Indiana with the hope of a better life.
He soon realized he would need more education to realize his dream. Inspired by his children, Marquez pursued his education through the Next Level Jobs program. He enrolled in a certification program through Ivy Tech Community College that gave him the opportunity to earn free credentials while taking the next steps towards a higher-paying, higher-demanding job in Indiana.
Teresa Lubbers, Indiana’s commissioner for Higher Education, cited Marquez as an example of the goals of her department’s strategy to provide opportunities for Hoosiers to improve their skills that lead to better jobs. His was on several stories she cited as she delivered her annual State of Higher Education address Tuesday at the Statehouse.
Marquez, she said, completed his certificate in supply chain management and is currently continuing his education as he works toward an associate degree.
More than 100 Hoosiers filled an atrium in the Statehouse as Lubbers described the need for change in higher education as the economy evolves and technology advances.
She spoke confidently of Indiana’s big goal for at least 60% of Hoosiers to have a quality credential beyond a high school diploma by 2025 and she described three action priorities — completion, equity and talent.
“No longer can we assume that completion is tied to a singular credential,” Lubbers said. “The new economy will demand educational upgrades throughout life, and higher education must be more agile and relevant to meet this need.”
As for equity, Lubbers said life’s circumstances should not dictate Hoosier’s opportunity to succeed. She believes everyone deserves to have access to higher education opportunities and support.
The commission created the nation’s first equity report in order to track results which includes information on socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, along with gender and geography.
The third priority of the strategic plan — talent — is measured by Indiana’s College Value Report and focuses on developing human potential to drive the state’s workforce and economy.
“Nearly 11,000 Hoosiers are realizing the benefits of skilling up or changing careers by completing a tuition-free, quality credential with a Workforce Ready Grant certificate,” Lubbers told the crowd.
The commission has created a “Blueprint for Change” that include strategies to ensure the success of the three action priorities. They include quality, affordability, community engagement, finding the right path for every learner and strengthening the educator pipeline.
The measurements include college-going rates, on-time and extended-time completion rates, the completion rates of our adult learners, as well as the progress being to close achievement gaps, she said.
Another focus of the commission is to redesign academic programs to include career preparations in all postsecondary programs, including internships, research projects, and work-based learning options that offer career relevance.
Lubbers said another goal is to increase median household income to at least the average of Midwestern states, which is $51,635 while Indiana sits at $46,158, according to the Council of State Government Knowledge Center.
“The commission’s priorities for the year ahead include helping more students and families understand the benefit of early college credit, and giving high school teachers and counselors better resources to help students navigate their options,” she said.
The commission will release an annual report card to track and highlight the progress on the three metrics and explain the stories of people and organizations who are participating in this movement.
“Indiana’s willingness to embrace this new higher education compact with a collective sense of urgency and optimism will determine our state’s readiness and prosperity for decades to come,” Lubbers said.