Harris’ Bill Will Increase Accessibility to Higher Education for Hoosiers

A bill to automatically enroll eligible Indiana students into the 21st Century Scholars program, authored by State Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago), is headed to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s desk after passing through the House of Representatives on concurrence today. The bill is a piece of priority legislation for the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus (IBLC), of which Harris is chair, and was a priority for Gov. Holcomb for the 2023 session of the General Assembly.

Current practice requires eligible students and their families to sign up for the scholarship program in middle school. House Bill 1449 will automatically enroll eligible students into the program and notify them and their families of their enrollment and the academic requirements they must fulfill to receive the scholarship following graduation. 

Harris offered the following statement after the passage of his bill:

“The bipartisan support of this legislation is proof of the great things that can happen for Hoosiers when Democrats and Republicans work together. This bill will help so many Indiana students achieve a higher education, and in turn, will boost our state economy and enhance the quality of life for Hoosiers by helping individuals break the chains of cyclical poverty. I’m very thankful to my colleagues in both chambers for their support of this bill, which coincides with the IBLC’s 2023 goal of ‘Closing the Achievement Gap’ and continues the legacy of Gov. Evan Bayh’s work to create the program.

“The COVID-19 pandemic caused many Hoosier students to fall behind, but it also exacerbated existing disparities between students of color and their white peers. Black and brown students in Indiana are less likely to meet academic benchmarks and go to college. However, participation in the 21st Century Scholars program is proven to help students achieve academically and graduate from college. This will help students, their families, colleges and universities and the state of Indiana as a whole. Everyone benefits from everyone having a shot at achieving their goals, and this legislation is just one way we can help Hoosiers create a better future for themselves and the state.”