Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Indianapolis Business Journal. October 27, 2023.

Editorial: Latest tech designation welcome but no guarantee of funding

We were excited to learn this week that the U.S. Department of Commerce has designated Indiana a biotechnology hub, although admittedly disappointed that the decision essentially just makes Indiana a sort of finalist for federal funding.

In all, the Commerce Department named 31 federal hubs across the nation representing different types of technology. The designation makes each eligible to compete for up to $70 million in federal funding to implement its programs.

But federal officials said only five to 10 of those 31 “tech hub designees” will actually be awarded grants ranging from $40 million to $70 million. The winners are expected to be announced by the end of the year.

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Indiana’s winning application was submitted by Heartland BioWorks—a consortium of Hoosier entities that includes colleges and universities, industry groups and some of the state’s largest employers. And the biologics manufacturing hub will be in central Indiana.

Of course, our hope is that the Indiana consortium lands the full $70 million for biotech research and work. But if that doesn’t happen—and more designated hubs will be turned down than will win funding—we’d like to see state and local governments, universities, private industry and more lean into the designation and fund the projects that catapult Indiana’s life sciences industry even further.

The designation is already the result of Indiana’s leadership in the life sciences sector. The state leads the nation in pharmaceutical exports and has the second-highest concentration of life sciences jobs in the United States. It is the only state in the nation to manufacture all three COVID-19 vaccinations.

We are optimistic that those facts—and others—will lead to federal funding.

The White House has said the hubs—created by a federal law co-authored by Indiana Sen. Todd Young —are designed to help communities across the country become centers of innovation. They’re meant to ensure the U.S. is globally competitive in areas that are key to national security.

Melina Kennedy, CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, told IBJ’s John Russell the hub designation shows that the state is a key player in biotechnology and life sciences manufacturing.

“Indiana, in the heartland, is really a place the whole country can lean on to not only discover but make advances in medicine and biotechnology that can be beneficial for the whole country,” she said.

In all, the state has nabbed three tech hub designations since the CHIPS Act was passed last year.

A coalition including Indiana, Illinois and Michigan was one of seven selected by the Biden administration for $1 billion in grant funding for the Midwest Alliance for Clean Hydrogen, which consists of more than 70 Midwestern public and private organizations.

Last month, Indiana was one of eight states selected by the U.S. Department of Defense for a hub focused on supporting domestic production of microelectronics, semiconductor manufacturing and other advanced technologies.

The announcements are encouraging. We would like to see Indiana continue to play a crucial role in areas and industries that are key to the country’s vitality, and the hubs are great next steps.

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. October 27, 2023.

Editorial: New college-going initiatives could convince more Hoosiers to seek higher education

Overall college enrollment and the state’s college-going rate are beginning to turn around after more than a decade of declines, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education announced last week.

Fifty-three percent of 2021 high school graduates are pursuing some form of postsecondary education. Additionally, Indiana colleges and universities this fall saw nearly 5,000 more students enroll than in 2022, and students completing their degree programs on time has increased almost 9% over the past five years.

Before the 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce sounded the alarm about post-high school education. President and CEO Kevin Brinegar told journalists the most serious challenge facing the state was improving K-12 educational outcomes for students of all races and income levels.

“Indiana has a massively leaking talent pipeline,” Brinegar said during an online news conference with Indiana media in November 2022. He pointed to two crucial statistics: 54.3% of Hoosiers age 20 to 65 with just a high school diploma were unemployed, and 60% of state residents with no high school diploma were not in the workforce.

Brinegar asked lawmakers to consider two requirements to assist students in realizing their potential: mandating all students fill out the Free Application for Student Aid, or FAFSA, form in order to graduate, and automatically enrolling all income-eligible students into the state’s 21st Century Scholars program. Both were adopted.

And the Commission on Higher Education now is offering pre-admissions to encourage this year’s high school seniors to consider multiple paths to further their education. “Indiana Pre-Admissions: Your Path to College” launched in the summer.

According to the commission, college enrollment increased 2% compared to 2022, making 2023 the first time in 13 years Indiana has seen an increase. More than 244,000 students, both undergraduate and graduate, enrolled in one of the state’s public institutions this fall.

Indiana’s college completion rates also have improved over the past five years at two- and four-year state campuses. On-time completion rates have increased nearly 6% at four-year colleges and 9.3% at two-year schools.

Extended-time completion rates — within six years for any degree type — have seen similar improvements. Almost 70% of all students graduate within six years, an 8% improvement over five years prior.

While most Americans with college degrees see value in them, Indiana’s college-going rate plunged from 70% in 2016 to 53% in 2021. According to Pew Research, the reasons for either not attending college or dropping out before completion include affordability, low unemployment rates, the need to earn money for family and, regrettably, at least 13% of respondents said they didn’t think college was an option.

It’s easy to see how pre-admission and free federal student aid filing remove some of the anxiety potential college students and their families face in an expensive but life-altering experience.

The public good from a better-educated populace needs to be valued by all Hoosiers. People with more education have lower smoking rates, higher voter participation and are more civically engaged, to name just a few benefits. The inverse is worse health and voting outcomes, and the loss of college graduates to better-paying jobs in other states.

Indiana’s new college pre-admissions program, its auto-enrollment for the 21st Century Scholars program and mandatory filing of free federal student aid forms are evidence that state and legislative leaders are finally focusing beyond the manufacturing sector on which the state has long depended. The new initiatives could help convince more high school seniors to enroll in college, and in the process help repair the state’s leaking talent pool and build better economic fortunes for workers and employers.

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