For New Haven High School senior Mikala Hiatt, her college choice was down to the state’s big three public universities: Indiana, Purdue and Ball State.
In the end, Hiatt chose to study nursing, possibly switching to speech pathology after her first year, at Purdue University. Purdue has its own graduate program in speech pathology and has a highly selective nursing program, Hiatt said
I liked Purdue’s campus a lot, she said. It was more compact and all together, and I liked the nursing facility. I really enjoyed their staff.
Hiatt, New Haven’s salutatorian this year, will join 25 percent of Allen County’s top graduates this year in attending Purdue in the fall. Purdue dominated the top spot in The Journal Gazette’s annual survey of college plans for the county’s top graduates.
For the past 13 years, The Journal Gazette has asked high schools in Allen County where their top 10 graduates will be headed in the fall. This year all but one of the 160 students surveyed will be headed to college next year, although five were undecided as to where. One graduate will join the military.
Last year, Indiana was the top choice. This year, IU fell to second with 23 students opting to head to Bloomington compared with 41 who chose Purdue. The universities have traditionally alternated as the top choice.
IPFW maintained its third-place rank from last year, but with 17 students choosing the Fort Wayne university, it was close to overtaking IU. Ball State took the fourth spot with seven, and Notre Dame was close behind with six.
IU spokesman Mark Land said it would be difficult to speculate the reasons behind students’ choices.
Any time you’re talking about individual choices, the reasons are going to primarily lie with the individuals making them. Maybe this year’s graduating class from Allen County is heavy on students who want to be engineers, veterinarians or pharmacists, Land said.
All but three of the top 10 students at Carroll High School chose Purdue mainly to pursue specific fields of study, said Kathy Lepper, director of guidance at Carroll. Carroll’s guidance office has been stressing to students the importance of choosing a school that’s strong in or well known for the major they’re pursuing.
We have a heavy amount of kids going into math- and science-related areas; those lend themselves strongly to going to Purdue, Lepper said.
It’s possible that students in the county are focusing their studies in math or science, but overall that isn’t the case, said Mitch Warren, Purdue director of admissions. Purdue hasn’t seen significant change in the number of students enrolled in certain academic colleges, he said.
In general, the state has strong public higher education institutions – especially Indiana, Purdue and Ball State – that are looked at favorably across the nation, Lepper said.
(Indiana students) are getting a lot of bang for their buck, she said.
This year’s Snider High School valedictorian, Colin Zink, used the same phrase to describe the cost of attending Purdue, a university with a nationally recognized engineering program. Zink will study chemical engineering and chemistry at Purdue in the fall.
When I think of Purdue, I think of engineering, he said.
Zink is among the 88 percent of top Allen County students who will continue their education in-state, an increase of 8 percentage points from last year. In 2009, a survey-high 89 percent of top grads were continuing their schooling in-state.
Zink had narrowed his search to Purdue, University of Illinois and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He chose Purdue because the school is far enough from home, but not too far, and was less expensive than other options with in-state tuition.
Julia Hayes, a 2013 Bishop Luers graduate, was the only top-ranked student in the county to enter the military after graduation. I wanted to join the military basically my whole life, she said.
Hayes chose to join the U.S. Army and left for basic training June 10. She said she looked into college but wasn’t thrilled about paying so much money to take mostly general classes.
With my grades, I was expected to go to college, she said. But everything about college wasn’t really that interesting to me.