Students at Taylor who are part of the 21st Century Scholars program are helping close Indiana’s achievement gaps.
The achievement gap indicates the inequality between opportunity for students of different genders, races and income levels to gain higher education.
A recent equity report released by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) stated that students involved in the 21st Century Scholars program are the only group of Indiana students on track to close the achievement gap entirely by 2025, a goal of CHE.
The 21st Century Scholars program is a four-year college readiness program which helps high school students of lower socioeconomic status prepare and pay for college.
“Without a doubt, 21st Century Scholars are outpacing all populations of Indiana’s graduates in college-going rates,” said Teresea Lubbers, Indiana commissioner for higher education. “Additionally, Scholars are exceeding their low-income and minority peers in nearly every measure we consider in the Equity Report.”
Currently 65 21st Century Scholars attend Taylor.
Junior Carolina Quintana is one of those scholars. She applied for the program in junior high and completed the necessary tasks such as visiting a college and volunteering that were required to retain the scholarship.
“21st Century has certain requirements for high school students like visiting colleges junior year and maintaining a 2.5 or better gpa,” Quintana said. “There is no test score students need to have. So knowing they have the scholarships in high school can motivate students to work hard so they can go to college.”
Junior Katie Suits is also a 21st Century Scholar and was required to complete certain tasks each year of high school to retain her status.
She believes that Taylor 21st Century Scholars want to work harder because of this program.
“I think (the program) drives us to want to work harder and to work for making the grades so that we can keep that scholarship because it is what helped us get here,” Suits said. “I think it adds just a passion for the classes and a passion for wanting to learn and wanting to be here, because we were given the opportunity to be here.”
Sophomore Josie Koontz is the first person in her family to go to college. This program helped her in the steps to finding and applying for a college, a process she was clueless about.
Though Quintana, Suits and Koontz all have different backgrounds and stories, they all agree that without this program, they would not be able to attend Taylor University.
“If I weren’t a 21st Century Scholar I might not be at Taylor or at college at all,” Koontz said. “Going to college was always something I wanted to do but I might have gone to a community college and gotten a basic degree without the college experience. There is the possibility that I wouldn’t have gone at all . . . This program equipped me with the skills and financial stability to go to college.”