Indiana 21st Century Scholars Coaching
Improving College Success for Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars
A $2.4 million gra​nt from USA Funds® is supporting the Indiana Commission for Higher Education's efforts to boost the graduation rate of Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars via a one-on-one coaching service designed to guide these aspiring students through the often bumpy transition from high school to college.
During the first year of the project, more than 2,100 incoming freshmen at Indiana State University, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Ivy Tech Community College were matched with specially trained college coaches encouraged students to identify obstacles to their success in college, create contingency plans for dealing with life’s inevitable setbacks, take advantage of tutoring and other campus resources, and link students’ short-term decisions to their long-term goals.
The first-year results of the initiative showed a promising improvement in persistance rates for the students who benefitted from the coaching.
The 21st Century Scholars coaching grant reflects USA Funds’ new direction in grant-making: Completion With a Purpose. “By supporting innovations in college and career preparation, USA Funds is seeking to identify, test, and document ways to improve college outcomes,” said Carol D'Amico, USA Funds executive vice president for Mission Advancement and Philanthropy​. “We need to find cost-effective solutions for providing students the education and training they need to achieve fulfilling careers and life experiences.”
Established in 1989, Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program promises up to four years of free tuition at an Indiana college or university to low-income children who make and keep their pledge to achieve academic goals, remain drug and alcohol free, and complete college-preparation activities. This early-college-awareness program has successfully improved high school graduation and college enrollment rates of lower-income students. The on-time college completion rates for 21st Century Scholars average only 15 percent, notably ahead of the 9 percent average for low-income Hoosiers, but well short of the overall 23 percent average completion rate for Indiana’s full-time students.
Government data have long shown that economically disadvantaged students, who are often the first in their families to enroll in college, are at greater risk of dropping out of college than students whose families can offer greater financial support or practical advice on what it takes to succeed in the classroom and survive campus life. Recent research, however, suggests that personalized, on-campus support systems can boost student persistence rates.

The “College Success Coach” program being offered at ISU, IUPUI and Ivy Tech is building on a successful pilot project conducted by Indiana State during the 2013-2014 academic year. ISU found that the students who received coaching last year – all 21st Century Scholars – were more likely to stay enrolled than students who didn’t participate in the program.
The 21st Century Scholars coaching initiative is designed to become self-sustaining. The USA Funds grant will fund the full cost of providing the coaching service during the first year. If the program is successful, the schools will use the increase in tuition and state funding revenues generated by higher student persistence rates to fund the coaching service for incoming students.
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has awarded the coaching service contract to Inside Track, which developed the one-on-one coaching model that is being offered to the 21st Century Scholars. The San Francisco-based company projects a 10‐15 percent increase in the college completion rates of Scholars served by the program.