Funding change means fewer options for adult learners
October 8 — The word student, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “a person who attends a school, college, or university” or “a person who studies something.”
As defined by the state legislature, however, that person must be of a certain age.
In its 2021 session, the legislature added a provision to the Indiana Code that places an age limit on who is determined to be a student for school funding purposes. And for school districts that offer adult education programs, students over 23 are no longer eligible for funding.
Kokomo School Corp. received state dollars for students enrolled in Twilight School, a program that helps adults seeking a high school diploma. With the new age limit, however, adults 23 and older must now find other options.
It’s a surprising move by the state legislature, which also announced this year that it has committed $ 2 billion in additional funds to K-12 education over the next two years.
Although this announcement was widely reported, the change in funding for adult learning has remained mostly under the radar, even for schools affected by the change.
Mike Sargent, superintendent of Kokomo Schools, said the company was caught off guard. He told the Kokomo Tribune in July that administrators only discovered the change when it was mentioned on a teleconference this summer.
Achieve Virtual Education Academy, which is part of the Wayne Township Metropolitan School District in Indianapolis, was also not aware of the change until an audit by the State Board of Accounts. Students who were enrolled there will continue their studies until graduation, but the school will not receive state funding for them.
There is a great need for adult education in Indiana. Since 2012, more than 600 students have graduated from the Twilight School program, which has allowed people of all ages to participate.
According to a 2019 report from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the state’s adult education program receives more students each year than Ball State University. In 2018, nearly 25,000 students were enrolled in adult education in Indiana.
Fortunately, there are other options for adults over 22 who want to earn a high school diploma, such as the Excel Center in Kokomo and other communities and The Literacy Alliance in Fort Wayne. But this change means fewer options.
Anyone looking to improve their lot should have access to as many institutions and programs as possible to achieve their goals, regardless of their age. Legislators may have had to consult a dictionary before making this change.