Looking at three of the 2024 Passport Breakfast panelists, you may see few similarities; however, one significant commonality is their identities as nontraditional students. 

For many students, the path to higher education isn't always straightforward. Some people may start at a community college to explore their options, while others may choose a university but then find themselves uncertain about their chosen path. 

“As a nontraditional student who didn’t see themselves going to college, Ivy Tech was the more affordable way to get started and figure out what I wanted to do,” Brian Garner II, ‘20, said. 

Similar to Garner, Christina Bruce, ‘23, didn’t know what she wanted to study in college. Although she was accepted into both Indiana University Indianapolis (IU Indianapolis) – formerly known as Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis – and Indiana State University when she graduated high school in 2015, she didn’t want to waste money by enrolling in a four-year institution without knowing what she truly wanted to study. 

“I figured Ivy Tech is cheaper, and by the time I finished my general education classes, hopefully, I’ll have figured out what I want to do,” Bruce said. 

Marva Barlow, ‘23, on the other hand, was already in the career she wanted when she decided to gain a higher education. A director at the Girls STEM Institute at IU Indianapolis, Barlow, said she realized, “I’m doing the work, but I don’t have the credentials.”

“When you see yourself through a deficit lens, once you reach a certain age, then you hold yourself back,” Barlow remarked.

READ: IUPUI transfer students from Ivy Tech Indianapolis succeeding at significant rates

Why starting with an associate degree was the best decision

Garner, Bruce, and Barlow all exemplify the benefits of starting with an associate degree track.

Garner’s journey began with uncertainty about his educational direction. Starting his higher education at Ivy Tech Terre Haute, Garner eventually moved to Indianapolis and continued his studies at Ivy Tech Indianapolis. Reflecting on his experience, Garner noted the supportive environment at Ivy Tech Indy, where he was active on campus, involved in student government and TRIO, and received guidance from mentors like Rebecca Patten-Lemons and Sherry Moore, our assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs.

“I got to grow up a little bit,” Garner said. “My lifestyle at the time wasn’t one of a student. I just wasn’t there. Starting at Ivy Tech helped me work through my own issues. I got a job in Career Services, which was an eye-opening experience,” Garner continued. “I was definitely able to come into my own when I was at Ivy Tech.” 

Garner highlighted the pivotal role of the Passport Program in streamlining his transition to IU Indianapolis, where he pursued a bachelor's degree in project management and organizational leadership. Thanks to the Passport Program’s 2+2 Articulation Agreement, Garner was able to start his IU Indianapolis journey as a junior. Now, Garner is set to graduate in May with his bachelor's and has already started a new position in his desired field of project management at CMC Global.

Bruce's journey also exemplifies the benefits of starting with an associate degree track. 

“I recommend that anyone who doesn’t know what they want to do with their career start with a two-year track instead of a four-year,” Bruce said. 

Graduating in business administration from Ivy Tech Indianapolis, Bruce emphasized the flexibility of her chosen field and the affordability of starting at a community college. She opted for Ivy Tech to complete her general education requirements before transferring to a four-year university. Through the Passport Program, Bruce smoothly transitioned to IU Indianapolis, pursuing a community and organizational leadership studies degree with a human resources minor. She is on track to graduate next spring.

Barlow always aspired to be an elementary school teacher. Working with IU Indianapolis’ Girls STEM Institute students for the last 11 years reaffirmed that desire. 

“I saw that Ivy Tech offered a joint venture program with IU Indianapolis, and that seemed like a good fit for me,” Barlow shared. “The smaller class sizes and supportive environment appealed to me as an older student returning to academia.”

Barlow’s Ivy Tech experience was unique. As she puts it, she was “older than a lot of her professors,” she laughed. 

However, Barlow embraced the journey and found ways to connect with classmates and instructors, such as Dr. Rachel Barrett Knight, the department chair for English, humanities, and world languages, Dr. Gayle Cosby, the education program chair, and Susan Bryant, an I-SUCCEED Success Coach. 

“Ivy Tech Indy allowed me to ease back into school,” Barlow said. 

The Passport Program to IU Indianapolis was instrumental in Barlow’s journey to pursue her passion for elementary education further. She says the program was made to facilitate a smooth transition and pushed her to stay on top of deadlines and engage with the available resources. 

“Despite the age difference, I felt confident in my abilities after Ivy Tech and saw IU as the next step in achieving my goals,” Barlow said. 

Barlow is set to graduate next spring from IU Indianapolis. 

As Ivy Tech Indianapolis graduates, Garner, Bruce, and Marlow’s success underscores the effectiveness of the Passport Program in providing a clear pathway for students to achieve their academic goals. Their journeys prove that with suitable support systems in place, the journey from a two-year college to a four-year university can indeed be a smooth and rewarding experience.

To learn more about the Passport Program and other transfer opportunities from Ivy Tech Indianapolis to IU Indianapolis, visit ctas.iupui.edu. Learn more about the new Dual Admission program between Ivy Tech Indianapolis and IU Indianapolis. 

NEW: Dual Admission Program 

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.