KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo welcomed Governor Mike Pence to campus Thursday for a community conversation, learning more about state government and current issues.
The crowd, more than half of them IU Kokomo students, faculty, and staff, filled Kresge Auditorium to capacity, with some instructors bringing entire classes to the event.
In the front row, freshman Noah Warren, from Marion, unfurled an Indiana state flag as the governor was introduced.
“It meant a lot to me to meet him in person,” said Warren, adding that he wanted to thank the governor in person for allowing schools to close without penalty during record snows his junior year of high school.
Kaylü Hiatt, a psychology and nursing major from Logansport, attended to learn more about current events in the state. She was especially interested in hearing Pence talk about affordable college education.
“As a mom of four who works part time, I sometimes can’t afford to pay for what my Pell grants don’t cover,” she said. “I’ve had to get student loans four times to cover the difference, and it’s concerning to me.”
Pence talked about affordable education, focusing on career and vocational training, as well as on-time degree completion, as ways to help students afford the preparation they need to begin careers.
The vocational and career training helps some students identify skills for careers that don’t require a four-year degree. For those who aspire to four-year degrees, Pence said the state requires universities to have degree maps, outlining a specific course to graduate in four years.
He noted that last year’s record employment is good news for students, especially those about to graduate. The good paying jobs available in the state mean “when you finish up at IU Kokomo, you won’t be moving back in with your parents” but will have employment prospects.
“We have more Hoosiers working in Indiana than ever before,” he said.
Those jobs are made possible by legislative action to create a more business-friendly atmosphere, such as lowering taxes and investing in infrastructure. Specifically for the Kokomo area, Pence cited the “extraordinary investment” in upgrades to U.S. 31 as impacting Kokomo and north central Indiana, attracting significant expansion by FCA US LLC.
“There’s been great news on the job front in Howard County, and great news across the state,” he said. “It’s a statement about the high caliber of Hoosier workers.”
IU Kokomo senior Aubri Copp was pleased to learn the state recently passed the largest increase in public school funding in its history. As the daughter of a teacher, she attended the event specifically to ask about public school funding.
Pence inquired if she planned to be a teacher, then asked for technical assistance with his iPhone when she said her career aspiration is to be a general manager for Best Buy, and she is a certified Apple Master.
He told her he introduced bonuses for outstanding teachers, and is working on legislation to allow schools to become “innovation schools,” with more flexibility.
He said, though, that Hoosiers should be proud to have one of the largest voucher programs in the country, which gives parents more school choices.
“My focus is on one million kids, and that everyone can go to an excellent school,” he said.
“I was happy to hear about the increased funding for our schools,” Copp said. “That is an important topic to me. I appreciated the chance to ask about it in person.”Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.