What’s the cost of getting an education? 

At The Excel Center, an adult high school which officially opened Tuesday, the only price students pay to earn their Indiana Core 40 diploma is their lunch. The tuition at the school is paid for by Goodwill, and students are even provided special IDs that allow them to have free access to MITS transportation. 

The Excel Center welcomes all ages, races and economic classes with one goal in mind: helping students gain a high school diploma. Student Kenneth Burris did just that when he applied to the center while enrolling his kids for preschool. 

“It means a lot it’s a good opportunity,” Burris said. “The teachers here are really caring and willing to help. You know they help you reach your goals. If you’re slow at something, they help you with that. They help a good part.”

For remediate math and English teacher Leah Alexander, it’s students like Burris that keep her excited to come into the center each day. 

READ MORE: New Excel Center to expand free high school education to Muncie adults

“[Burris] just kind of came in fed on everything we gave him. If he wanted education, he got it. If he wanted friendship, he got it,” Alexander said. 

With only 90 minute classes four days a week in an eight-week session, teachers have a short time span with students. However, Alexander said because the students are older, it doesn’t seem to affect them. 

“We are kind of on this level playing field so they see it as adult versus an adult, and there’s not an authority issue,” she said. “So we kind of connect over a lot of family type of things.”

Muncie Mayor Dennis Tyler said the Excel Center means a lot for the City of Muncie. Tyler said there is a strong need for the Excel Center in Muncie, and is willing to do whatever to help it grow. 

“What it means is when you listen to the young man, or the elderly man coming back to get his diploma, it means that we are filling a gap in these people's lives,” Tyler said. “It’s awfully hard to get a job today, at least if you don’t have a GED or a high school education. It’s something that we’ve needed for year, and now we have it with The Goodwill Excel center.”

The Excel Center has received 600 applications, but the center only has the capacity to serve 300 during a term.  After applying, the applicant is connected with a life coach who helps schedule orientation and keep the students on track. 

“Even though we have 600, but not 600 in the building, we know that some people's lives change. That’s why we try to reach them early and balance things out,” director Brandon Marks said. “Not everyone understand what they are signing up for when they click, it’s just the idea of a high school diploma. We just want to make them feel well informed. Some have full time jobs, and so we can’t necessarily work with their schedule but we are trying.”

The certifications and credits that students earn are all paid for by Goodwill, meaning students are gaining a free education. This education does cost a time investment of 18 to 24 months. Classes are only offered Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and Fridays are reserved for extra academic support. 

“The hope going forward is to make an impact, and to be a center of impact in the sense that we are bringing together the idea of education and support for a individual who may not have that,” Marks said. 

Contact Pauleina Brunnemer with comments at pdbrunnemer@bsu.edu or on Twitter @pauleina15