ANDERSON, Ind. — Winds of change are blowing across a number of college and university campuses around the Hoosier State.
Anderson University is becoming the latest in higher education to announce plans to make a degree more attainable, announcing the launch of a pilot program to that will allow them to forgive thousands of dollars of debt for many former students.
"Forgiveness is one of the biblical concepts and so we're trying to live out our faith in a way that makes a real difference for students impacted by this decision," said Anderson University President John Pistole.
As part of the new Raven Return program, the university said it will forgive 100% of the debt for former students who attended before 2000 or for those who are 65 years of age and older. For those students who have been away from Anderson for two or more years and want to re-enroll, Anderson will forgive the first $5,000 over two semesters and 75% of the former student's remaining balance.
“So what we’re trying to do is encourage students to come back to school, to finish their degree if that’s what they’re interested in doing," Pistole said. "But without the detriment or the stigma, if you will, of having an outstanding balance which unfortunately, in higher education, can be a real barrier. For many students, you can't get a transcript to transfer elsewhere, you still have that student debt on your loans or whatever it may be."
AU isn't not the only ones easing the burden of tuition. In January, Martin University in Indianapolis will reduce its tuition 45% for undergraduate classes.
And earlier this month, the state of Indiana announced that full-time state employees can take courses at Ivy Tech Community College for free through the "Achieve Your Degree" program.
As higher education seeks to make education more accessible, Pistole said it's likely other institutions may follow suit.
"We're all looking for best practices and I think this will be a good model that other schools and universities can say, 'Yeah, this worked for Anderson, so let's go ahead and give it a try,'" he said.
For Anderson University, the Raven Return program could allow more than 800 former students to have some - if not all - of their debt forgiven. They're already seeing former students reaching out for help or to re-enroll.
"It's a second chance is what we're looking at, and that's what we feel like we should be about here," Pistole said.
Pistole says whether it's a second chance at education or financial freedom, it's the right thing to do.