Alumni and supporters of the N.C. Governor's School are about halfway toward a goal to raise $100,000 by August in their bid to keep the program running next year.
The money won't cover the full tab for the six-week summer enrichment program for gifted students, which can cost up to $1.5 million for 600 students. But it could allow leaders to start recruiting students to be part of a 2012 class.
A fundraising campaign to keep the school open had been under way in recent weeks after state lawmakers eliminated an $849,000 annual subsidy to the program. So far, about $45,000 has been raised, said Roice Fulton, vice president for the Governor's School Foundation.
But the effort received a new urgency after a recent meeting with state leaders.
Joe Milner, president of the Governor's School Foundation, said he and others were told last week that the only way to keep plans for a 2012 session alive is to raise $100,000 by Aug. 1.
The deadline comes a few days before the State Board of Education is likely to decide whether to proceed with a program next year. Board Chairman Bill Harrison said work on the Governor's School occurs year-round, including sending out applications for prospective participants and setting up auditions.
Still, Harrison said that raising $100,000 is just one of many fundraising goals state leaders will need to hit to have a 2012 session. Meeting that first target, he cautioned, is "not a guarantee that we'll be able to make it work."
More than 31,000 state residents have attended the Governor's School since 1963, taking a variety of programs in language, math, the arts, social studies, science and other subjects. The school operates on two campuses during the summer: Salem College in Winston-Salem and Meredith College in Raleigh.
For the bulk of the school's 48-year history, the school was offered free to students. But two years ago, amid budget constraints, state money for the school was cut from $1.35 million to $849,000, and the number of students was cut by 200. To help cover the funding gap, the school began charging students $500 tuition.
State lawmakers have said charging tuition is one way to continue the Governor's School. But program supporters say they don't want to pass on the full cost of the program - estimated at $2,100 per student - to families, because it could deter some from attending.
Earlier this month, state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson recommended discontinuing the school until adequate money could be raised to offer it to students across the state.
Harrison said he hopes the Governor's School would not have to charge more than the current $500 tuition. He said an informal poll of students conducted by the director of the Raleigh campus found that nearly all knew of another student who did not apply for the program because of the cost.
Fulton said the foundation would like to raise enough to completely cover the cost of the school for students. Among the options, he said, is operating just one campus.
Fulton and Milner said leaders plan to continue to reach out to Governor's School alumni, their parents and other supporters to find money for the program for the Aug. 1 deadline and beyond. They've also reached out to foundations in the state, and could approach other companies. "We're scrambling, and we're moving fast," Milner said.