INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Parents and guardians have less than a week to take advantage of free college tuition for their students.

The state’s 21st Century Scholars program is open to rising 7th and 8th graders, but the deadline to sign up is June 30 for those who finished their 8th grade year.

Karma Chappell, a Marian University communications and Spanish double major, is enrolled in this program.

“Eventually I want to open up a non-profit that does arts programming for kids who need financial assistance with attaining those things,” Chappell said.

This program provides up to four years of undergraduate tuition to students who are income eligible. Fifty schools across the state welcome the scholars, including Marian University, where Chappell studies.

“Anything else I need to pay out of pocket for book expenses and things like that, I apply for other scholarships and grants, as well as working part time,” Chappell said.

“On July 1, those students that just finished 6th grade, for us they’re in 7th grade,” Indy Achieves Director Esther Woodson said.

The program does require students to maintain a certain GPA and meet specific requirements.

“Like research a career, they do have to watch Paying for College 101, a job shadow, extracurricular activities,” Woodson explained.

A recent report by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education found just 53% of Indiana’s high school graduates in 2020 went to college. The commission said that is the sharpest year-over-year decline and dropped to its lowest point in recent history.

Facilitators want students to take advantage of this help with college so they will fill local jobs after graduation.

“We know it is going to take these students now going off to college, getting those degrees, and again, giving back to their community,” Woodson said.