It’s never too early for high school students to start planning for what they want to do after graduation, whether its entering the workforce, joining the military, or enrolling in a technical or traditional four-year college or university.

If students decide that continuing their education is the best option for them, it is important to know that the filing window for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opened October 1, three months earlier than previous years. The FAFSA allows students to apply for federal aid in the form of grants, loans and work-study programs.

The move to an earlier application window allows parents additional time to submit necessary information and allows families to know earlier if they qualify for financial aid. Parents are also allowed to use tax returns from the previous year. Under the old rules, families had to wait until the next year’s tax return to apply.

As students and parents begin considering which college best suits their needs, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education has launched a new tool to assist families in making a decision.

The College Value Index is a first-in-the-nation planning tool that provides a statewide campus-by-campus measure of the benefits and outcomes of all of Indiana’s public colleges and universities.

The index creates a profile for each institution based on information like the percentage of students that graduate on time, alumni input on the support they received while attending, and information on the various resources available to students at each college or university.

While the information the index provides is only one part of the various considerations involved in choosing a college, it is a helpful tool for students and parents to use to compare state universities.

You can find the College Value Index by visiting

I encourage Hoosier high school students and their families to use the resources the state and their local communities provide as they decide on the best career or education path after graduation.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and ideas concerning these and other topics. My office can be reached at 800-382-9467 or by email at

David Long - IN Dist. 16 Senator

David is a former Republican member of the Indiana State Senate representing the 16th district which encompasses Waynedale. He served as the President Pro Tempore of the Indiana State Senate. David writes the "Straight From The Senate" column for the newspaper. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer