INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Education has launched a program to help high schoolers earn while they learn.

The Career Scholarship Account program would offer eligible 10th-12th grade students $5,000 for learning opportunities outside the classroom. Students must be enrolled in an Indiana Commission for Higher Education-approved apprenticeship, applied-learning, or work-based learning program.

Advocates claim the CSA program will help disadvantaged students break down barriers that are often overlooked. Other policy experts and students believe there’s still some fine-tuning to be done.

Loriann Beckner, a freshman at Indiana University-Columbus, interned at a hospital through the Blue River Career Program in Shelbyville. She said she had to pay for transportation costs —something the CSA program would help cover.

“I think the scholarship part of it’s great,” Beckner said.

The House Education Committee Chairman says the program has 1,000 available spots.

“It’s just the start,” State Representative Bob Behning said. “I think that you could see 30,000 kids in the state.”

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce said the program gives kids more flexibility in creating a career path.

“There are certain expenses that aren’t really covered, generally speaking, in the existing funding — vehicles, things like transportation, things like, you know, safety equipment, tools, taking the exams associated with some of these certifications,” Jason Bearce with the Chamber of Commerce said.

However, Bearce said he hopes more clarity will be provided in terms of what credentials the CSA program would go towards, and which industries would benefit the most.

“These are limited dollars, and so let’s invest them in areas where there’s the most opportunity both now and the long-term for students,” Bearce said.

Beckner said she’s concerned the program could lead to students bypassing career centers like the one that helped her.

“I just worry that, if we do the scholarships and stuff, we’re going to lose that in-classroom time that we had,” Beckner said.

Behning said that funding for career centers increased last session, and that the current number of work-based program spots available statewide doesn’t meet the growing demand.

“I think this is another tool to add more capacity to this system,” Behning said.

Behning added that he doesn’t anticipate a financial increase in the program next session. Any increases will most likely take place during the next budget cycle. For this year’s program, the deadline for eligible students to apply is October 1 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

To access the application portal and find out more information, click here.