TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Officials at Indiana State University say they have concerns over how the pandemic has changed higher education in the United States.

“What we’re seeing nationally is that students that really often thrive at Indiana State, or institutions like Indiana State, are opting out of going to higher education, so that’s a huge concern that exists for our institution as well as nationwide,” said Jason Trainer, ISU’s Vice Provost of Enrollment Management.

Trainer said students that are coming to ISU are sometimes struggling with student loan payments; a situation found within most, if not all, higher education institutions.

The struggle to properly finance for student loans can lead a person to default on those loans. According to LendEDU, a loan is considered default if payment is late by 270 days, or roughly 9 months.

At ISU, the current student loan default rate sits at 11.9%, ranking . Trainer said this is a three-year rolling average, and that the number has decreased 1.7% from the previous report.

The newest rate places ISU 62nd out of 79 Indiana schools included in LendEDU’s report.

Using the default rate, as well as several other enrollment factors, ISU faculty members created a new enrollment model to follow in an effort to help students better prepare for the financial stress of college, and help the school better prepare for the possibility of default loans.

“We have kind of a multi-prong approach to improving this,” Trainer said, “One is looking at the admission of which students are most likely to be successful. There is a strong correlation with institutes that are less selective or take a risk on students that have more risk factors, so it’s not surprising that institutions like Indiana State are a little bit higher than other schools that are much more selective with their student body.”

What are some of these risk factors? Trainer pointed to high school GPAs, which show a prioritization of academic achievement. Trainer also said financial situations can alert a program as to the likelihood of a student being able to keep up with loan debt. If a student may not be as financially equipped to attend a four-year program, there are other avenues ISU can offer.

“We have, I think, a set of pathways that look at everything from bridge programs, which are highly intensive, kind of meant to build structure and academic rigor, to partnerships with Pathway to Blue, which is our latest partnership with Ivy Tech here in Terre Haute, which is really meant to provide a lower cost option for students to then transfer over.”

Trainer said the multi-prong enrollment model also includes education for students and their families to encourage successful academic and financial practices that can help avoid further debt.

Trainer said one factor ISU is not looking to change is the diversity found on ISU’s campus, including the first-generation students, who make up 47% of the current student body.

“We’re very proud of the diversity that exists at Indiana State,” Trainer said. “We think that that’s a unique aspect that really makes this environment so special.

Trainer said there are plenty of resources available for families on ISU’s website.

For more information on the Pathway to Blue program, click here.