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Indy allocates COVID-19 funding for postsecondary education

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Indianapolis will distribute more federal COVID-19 relief funds to help local college students continue their education and support adult learners.

The new appropriation includes $327,500 for Indy Achieves completion grants, which IUPUI and Ivy Tech students impacted by COVID-19 can use to cover debt, unpaid bursar bills and other debts preventing them from continuing their postsecondary education.

The appropriation also includes $1.1 million for Rapid Reskilling Grants distributed by EmployIndy to seven adult education providers: Washington Township, Wayne Township, Warren Township, Goodwill Excel Centers, Marian University, Indy Reads and the YMCA.

Adult learners in those programs can get their high school diploma, high school equivalency or retrain for a new career.

Indy Achieves is part of EmployIndy, which targets specific zip codes in Marion County for workforce development initiatives.

Mayor Joe Hogsett and city-county council President Vop Osili touted education as a way to improve equity in Indianapolis during a press conference Aug. 20 at Ivy Tech.

“Postsecondary education will be just as big a part of gainful employment post-pandemic as it was pre-pandemic,” Hogsett said.

The average in-state tuition for Indiana colleges and universities was about $17,600 for the 2018-19 school year, according to CollegeCalc, which was about $3,000 more than the country’s average.

About 30% of Marion County residents 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 85% have a high school diploma, according to census data.

Those numbers get worse when only considering neighborhoods with a significant percentage of African American residents, though. In the 46218 zip code, for example, where 72% of residents are Black, only 8% of those 25 and older have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 77% have a high school diploma, according to census data.

No one knows how long Indianapolis will be impacted by COVID-19 and the economic fallout, Osili said.

“But we do know at least one of the steps we can take to position Indianapolis for a rebound,” he added, “to give our residents access to educational opportunity. So when the cloud of COVID has cleared, we have workers and graduates prepared to take full advantage.”

About 65% of jobs today require some form of postsecondary education, Hogsett said, which is what the Rapid Reskilling Grants are supposed to prepare adult learners for.

“Our success as a city depends not only on attracting the businesses of the future, but it depends on our collective commitment to educating the workforce of the future,” he said.

About 53% of people in Marion County who have filed for unemployment since March 15 have a high school diploma or less, EmployIndy Chief Operating Officer Marie Mackintosh said.

The city previously allocated $1.5 million to Rapid Reskilling Grants in June, and EmployIndy has been able to enroll an additional 1,367 workers in Marion County who have been impacted by COVID-19 into secondary education programs, Mackintosh said.

It isn’t yet clear how many students could benefit from Indy Achieves completion grants because students are still enrolling for the fall semester. Boyd Bradshaw, an associate vice chancellor at IUPUI, said there are currently 84 IUPUI students who have received a grant, which averages about $2,500 per student.

Indianapolis received $168 million in federal funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in June. The city has been slowly allocating that money because it isn’t clear if Congress will agree on another relief package.

The city-county council approved $76 million in CARES Act funding June 8. The most recent approval on Aug. 10 was for $16 million.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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