Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — In an ideal world, every Howard County student would be expected to go to college, or to earn some kind of post-high school certification or degree.

A local organization hopes to change the county's culture, to make post-secondary education part of the community expectation. The Howard County College Success Coalition is hosting a town hall meeting from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 14, at Indiana University Kokomo, to begin creating that change.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana's commissioner for higher education, will introduce the documentary "First Generation," during the meeting, which shows the difficulties first-generation college students face in earning their degrees.

Tyana Lange, director of enrollment management, said Howard County students face many of those same challenges, so she expects the film to generate interesting discussion of how those problems can be overcome, and what can be done to encourage more students to continue education beyond high school.

"Our goal is to change the culture of Howard County, to a college-bound mindset," she said. "Our students don't grow up expecting to go to college, and in today's economy, they must have education beyond high school to have the quality of life they want to achieve."

Lange said the Howard County coalition's first goal is to increase the number of students who complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), because those who do not fill out the application by the deadline do not qualify for the assistance, or for many other scholarships available.

"The barrier to college for many of our student is not money, but access to money," Lange said. "Only 38 percent of Howard County high school students completed the form last year. We want to double that."

The group also wants to create an educational resource guide for the county, and to mobilize churches to participate in activities promoting post-high school educational attainment."

Amy Parraga, north central Indiana regional coordinator for Twenty-First Century Scholars, said 32 Howard County organizations and businesses are already onboard to help in the effort.

"We want to promote anything post-high school that leads a student to success," she said. "For some that is a four-year degree, for others it might be a two-year degree or certification. It's pretty exciting to have so many community partners who want to be part of achieving this goal. I think it also sends a message to students of how important post-secondary education is, when so many of our community's leaders get involved."

The town hall meeting begins with a reception from 5 to 6 p.m. in Alumni Hall, followed by the movie and discussion in Kresge Auditorium. Free parking is available on campus. For more information contact Lange at 765-455-9469 or tylange@iuk.edu.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.