The decision was unanimous. Both the Shelbyville City and Shelby County Councils approved a plan to use funds from the Indiana Grand Racing Casino to establish the Advantage Shelby County initiative, which will allow county students to attend college locally for free.
The Advantage — which will cover costs federal Pell grants will not over two years at Ivy Tech Community College — is the first program of its kind in Indiana.
Local high school graduates can qualify if they enroll full-time at Ivy Tech, maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA and satisfactory academic progress benchmarks and complete a minimum of 10 hours of community service per semester.
“We know we’re not Indianapolis, we know that we’ll never have that downtown nightlife. We know that we won’t have the appeal of a Chicago or a San Francisco or a New York City,” said Mayor Tom DeBaun. “But what we want to do is have the job opportunities and the community amenities to bring those kids home when they’re ready to raise their families. And to do that, you’ve got to have quality of place and job opportunities.”
Dr. Kathleen Lee, the chancellor of Ivy Tech Community College-Central Indiana, believes that this kind of program can drastically reduce the shortage of skilled workers needed in the state by 2025.
“Not everybody needs a bachelor’s degree or master’s,” Lee said. “Those are wonderful levels of education, but it’s not what every single job requires. We need to make our students aware of the multiple opportunities out there … Ivy Tech loves being the gateway to a four-year degree; we’re also very mindful that there are plenty of good jobs that an associate degree will fill.”
Shelby County officials hope to start the program in January 2016.