ISU Receives $5.8 Million Lilly Endowment Grant to Improve Early Childhood Education and Strengthen Quality of Life in the Wabash Valley

Indiana State University has been awarded a grant of $5.8 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its initiative, College and Community Collaboration (CCC). The grant will support the expansion and renovation of Indiana State’s Early Childhood Education Center and advance strategic planning throughout the Wabash Valley to enhance the quality and capacity of our community to respond to the need for first-class early childhood development and care.

Indiana State University’s Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and licensed by the Department of Family and Children Services of the State of Indiana. The ECEC serves families and children from 6 weeks to 5 years old with the mission to provide high-quality, sustainable care for children. The Lilly Endowment Grant will help expand capacity and offer a research-based curriculum beyond the ISU ECEC. In September 2023, Indiana State and Ivy Tech Community College announced a collaborative initiative, Grow Up in West Central Indiana, a strategic plan project to provide research- based recommendations to address the needs and impact of childcare on the workforce in West Central Indiana.

“When looking to locate in new communities, companies and families alike ask questions about the same things: housing availability, a skilled workforce, schools, and childcare. Terre Haute and the Wabash Valley have much to offer corporations looking to develop new sites. The data show that high-quality, research-based childcare facilities are integral in driving economic development,” shared Dr. Deborah Curtis, President of Indiana State University. “The Lilly Endowment grant enables Indiana State University to not only continue its role in supporting families with young children, but it also allows the University to accelerate the process of expanding childcare availability in the Wabash Valley.”

Indiana State University is one of six Indiana higher education institutions receiving implementation grants through Lilly Endowment’s competitive initiative. Lilly Endowment anticipates making additional grants through its CCC initiative in 2024.

“In designing their proposed projects, it was evident that these colleges and universities engaged a wide-ranging group of community stakeholders to imagine and develop creative solutions to pressing campus and community needs,” said Jennett M. Hill, president of Lilly Endowment. “The institutions submitted proposals that revealed robust collaborative efforts reflective of the institutions’ willingness to learn from not only campus colleagues but from local residents and businesses to help shape projects with promising potential to enhance the quality of life on their campuses and in their local communities.”

Dr. Nancy Rogers, Indiana State Vice President for University Engagement, led the team writing the grant proposal. “As we were developing this proposal, it was abundantly clear that employers, local government, childcare providers, families, and other stakeholders agree that the childcare shortage in the region is a crisis for many families and their employers.” Dr. Rogers continued, “We look forward to collaborating with our community partners to help address the childcare shortage. This project is possible because of the support of the Lilly Endowment and our local funding partners, including Vigo County, the City of Terre Haute, and the Wabash River Regional Development Authority. Our work with RJL Solutions and Ivy Tech to create a regional childcare plan will lay the groundwork to expand access to early childhood education, as will our collaborative outreach efforts with Chances and Services for Youth and the United Way of the Wabash Valley.”

Lilly Endowment launched the CCC initiative in early 2023. The initiative is designed to encourage Indiana’s colleges and universities to work closely with community stakeholders to envision and jointly undertake significant community development efforts to create more vibrant places in which to live, learn, work and play.