Most Hoosiers value education beyond high school, according to an annual survey, but almost three-quarters believe financial strains from the COVID-19 pandemic pushed higher education further out of reach.
Nonprofit INvestED specializes in financial planning for higher education. It asked roughly 600 Hoosiers to give their thoughts on the costs of college. Most said they were concerned about the average amount of debt Hoosiers take on for college and nearly 70 percent worry the pandemic will force more Hoosiers to take on debt for college.
Meanwhile, the number of Hoosiers applying for federal student aid, usually called the FAFSA, dropped 10 percent compared to this time last year. In high schools with more students of color, that drop is even more pronounced. A completed FAFSA is a requirement not just for federal grants, but oftentimes for state higher education aid programs like Indiana's Next Level Jobs workforce ready grant.
Bill Wozniak, marketing vice president for INvestED, says he thinks that’s due to multiple factors like school closures in 2020 and people thinking they didn’t need aid before they lost their jobs.
“The whole world just got turned upside down,” Wozniak said. “So we want families to file the FAFSA ... and the worst case scenario is, you then don’t get the aid.”
The survey also showed most Hoosiers think Indiana could fill workforce needs if there were a trusted source to help pay for college and avoid student debt.