From the Desk: IU Kokomo Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke discusses college preparation

Is 5 years old too young to start thinking about college?

Not at Indiana University Kokomo.

In the past three years, we have hosted more than 10,000 students, kindergarten through 12th grade in an effort to raise the educational attainment in north central Indiana. 

Our visitors include about 3,000 kindergartners for the Walk into My Future event, in partnership with the United Way of Howard County, the Community Foundation of Howard County and the Kokomo Family YMCA. As part of the Howard County Promise program, it encourages families to start planning for college now, and offers the start of a college savings account. The foundation gives each child $25 in an account, and they can earn additional matching funds with other contributions.

Susan Sciame-GieseckeView print quality image
Indiana University Kokomo Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke. Photo by Alisha Referda, IU Kokomo

These are exciting days on campus, with groups of children rotating among educational stations, staffed by our students, faculty, staff, and other volunteers. They learn Spanish vocabulary, take vitals on virtual patients, peer through a telescope, sing, tour the campus, and participate in many other fun activities. 

While they’re enjoying the day, the children also are learning that a college campus is a great place to be, and about the importance of saving for college. Research shows that a child with a college savings account in his or her name is seven times more likely to attend college, and a child who has designated school savings from $1 to $499 is more than four and a half times more likely to graduate from college than a child with no savings account.

In Wabash County, where the Promise program began, students continue to take part in activities that add to their 529 College Savings Account and encourages college-going behaviors past kindergarten through the eighth grade. When students have successfully completed that program, we present them with a certificate congratulating them and letting them know that should they decide to come to IU Kokomo, we will have a $1,000 scholarship for them.

While we begin the college conversation with our kindergartners, we continue through elementary, middle, and high school, with programming, college visits and opportunities to take college classes on our campus, online or in their schools.

One of our newest programs, Tomorrow's Teachers, allows future teachers to take IU Kokomo School of Education classes, taught by our faculty, at their schools. We will launch this program in fall 2018 at Logansport, Kokomo, Western and Caston High Schools. This partnership not only allows their students to earn college credit in high school, but it helps these local school districts to meet the growing need for teachers.

Since 2015, we've partnered with the Wabash City Schools to bring about 35 of their top seniors to take English and math classes on our campus twice a week. Not only are they earning credit they can use when they enroll in college, but they are learning how to manage time differently than in high school, ask questions and interact with faculty, while still having support at home and high school. Our campus has provided partial scholarships for these students. 

It’s vital that we plant the idea of going to college early, and continue to lead efforts to encourage students to continue their education after they graduate high school. 

Susan Sciame-Giesecke

We also have dual-credit programs placed in area high schools, such as in the Madison-Grant High School. Students there work on their online course during a class period in the school day, with one of their faculty members in the classroom for assistance. Most of these classes are from the core transfer library, and should transfer to any college or university.

Logansport Community School Corp., which was the first in our area to bring all of its eighth graders here for a campus visit, also partners with us to transport their seniors who plan to enroll here. That allows them to register for classes, take required placement tests, obtain their Crimson Card student ID and get an IT user name to access Canvas and campus e-mail, all in one day.

As you may know, Indiana has recently announced the implementation of a Work Ethic Certificate for K-12 students.  Because the certificate encourages behaviors that also help students succeed in college, our campus will offer a $1,000 scholarship to students who successfully complete the program and matriculate at IU Kokomo.

Another new initiative is our College Readiness Program with Peru Community School Corp. Administrators from Peru and our faculty have drafted five "college-going behavior" modules that allow their students beginning in seventh grade to earn a "badge" (or some type of symbol) for each module completed. The curriculum includes material on growth mindset, important college going activities such as filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, researching colleges, applying for college scholarships, etc. When the students successfully complete the curriculum and are admissible to IU Kokomo, they are eligible for a scholarship.  

It’s vital that we plant the idea of going to college early, and lead efforts to encourage students to continue their education after they graduate high school. Many students in our region will be the first in their families to attend college, so they may not have someone at home who can have this important conversation with them. Community partnerships with organizations such as the United Way of Howard County, the Kokomo Family YMCA, area community foundations, and our K-12 school districts have made these programs possible.

Susan Sciame-Giesecke is chancellor of Indiana University Kokomo. This column is part of a series featuring regional Indiana University leaders.