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In Indiana, Graduate Early, Get State Aid for College?

Across the country we're seeing efforts by lawmakers to challenge traditional notions of how state money should flow to students and schools. In some cases, newly emboldened Republican lawmakers are pushing new voucher proposals to give families taxpayer money to cover private school tuition. Many in the GOP describe their overall philosophy in this area as having money "follow the student." A different approach to channeling state aid to students in their late teens is being proposed in Indiana.

Lawmakers in Hoosierland are considering a proposal that would give high schoolers who graduate early a chunk of state per-pupil aid—$3,500—to pay for college, during what would otherwise have been their senior years.

The state spends an average of $5,864 per student right now, according to the bill's sponsor, Republican state Sen. Dennis Kruse, who chairs his chamber's education and career development committee.

"My hope is that rewarding students with scholarship money will serve as a strong incentive for students to pursue a higher education degree," Kruse said. "Our students deserve opportunities to get a jump-start on their education and career track."

Only Indiana residents who are enrolled full-time at a public school for the previous two semesters before completing their required high school work would qualify, according to a recent draft. Students would need to attend an approved postsecondary education institution within two years of graduating from high school, excluding time spent in military service, to secure the money.

The idea has the support of Indiana leaders such state schools chief Tony Bennett, as well as Gov. Mitch Daniels, both of whom are Republicans.

One of the concerns raised about the bill has little to do with academics, or finance, but is instead a question about safety. Bringing students who are under the age of 18 to college campuses raises a host of legal and oversight questions, some university officials say. Where would those students be housed? Who's responsible for their welfare—their parents or the school?

What do you make of the Indiana scholarships-for-seniors idea? Would it make sense in other states?

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