Shelby Co leaders approve plan for two years of free college education

(WISH Photo, file)

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Shelby County leaders approved a plan Wednesday that will provide two years of free college education to Shelby County high school graduates.

It’s a first of its kind program in Indiana called “Advantage Shelby County.”

The program was approved Wednesday in a special joint meeting with Ivy Tech Community College, Shelbyville Council, and Shelby County Council.

Beginning with the class of 2016, officials say students at all Shelby County high schools will be able to attend college at Ivy Tech’s Shelbyville location. They’ll be able to study Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology, Business Administration and General Studies.

The idea is that officials will invest in the local grads, and hopefully retain talent in the community.

“As we compete for investment and look to raise educational attainment levels, Advantage Shelby County will put us ahead,” Shelbyville Mayor Tom DeBaun said in a press release. “Something like this could be transformational. We’re investing directly in our residents and our workforce. This program is designed around our economy with the goal of retaining and developing talent and providing a valuable workforce to our employers.”

“If we can provide our youth with positive experiences in Shelby County, there’s a much better chance we’ll be able to keep them after they complete the program,” Mayor DeBaun said.

Students will have to meet certain requirements to be eligible. They need to be a county resident, and a 2016 graduate of a Shelby County high school, home school program or high school equivalency diploma with a minimum 2.0 GPA. The program also includes a mentoring program for students. They’ll need to perform a minimum of 10 hours of community service per semester.

Officials say they hope to fund tuition costs that aren’t covered by scholarship, state or federal aid. They say the money could come from revenue generated by Indiana Grand Racing and Casino. Officials are still working on the agreement and other documents for the program.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to partner with Shelby County and the City of Shelbyville, who are really thinking about the future of their community,” said Dr. Kathleen Lee, chancellor of Ivy Tech Central Indiana. “Because of this program, students will be able to start off their college education and then start their career or transfer to a four-year degree program completely free of debt. Advantage Shelby County is invaluable for Shelby County high school graduates.”

Head to the program’s website here for more information.

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