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Improving by degrees

Stan Jones, Indiana's former commissioner for higher education, is now president of the Washington-based Complete College America. I just received the first news release from the new organization. Its goal is to increase the number of U.S. college graduates.

The organization's Web site has easy-to-find state data offering some interesting numbers on college success. The state with the highest percentage of adults ages 25-34 with a college degree? North Dakota -- with 60 percent. Arkansas brings up the rear, at just 26 percent.

Indiana comes in at 36 percent, a figure that Stan Jones helped the state achieve. As an adviser to Gov. Evan Bayh, he developed the 21st Century Scholars program, which has been extremely successful in helping students from low-income families attend college. As higher ed commissioner, he was instrumental in turning Ivy Tech into a statewide community college system setting new enrollment records every semester. Ivy Tech's completion rates are dismal, but you can't finish a degree or certificate if you don't start one.

If he can achieve the same results at the national level, the U.S. should be able to improve its standing as 10th in the world for the number of young adults with a college degree.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at