N.C. New Schools is in line to receive a $20 million federal grant to expand early college high schools in North Carolina and other states.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the grant Thursday in Greensboro.
Early college high schools, typically established on community college or university campuses, allow students to earn high school diplomas and associate's degrees in five years. Schools in the network boast graduation rates higher than the state average.
“The research is clear: New Schools' early college model boosts graduation rates, which means thousands more students will cross the stage on graduation day, ready for college, careers and life,” Duncan said in a statement. “It is a scalable model that can improve the lives of students across the nation.”
In order to get the five-year grant, New Schools must raise $500,000 by Dec. 10. All grant winners have been able to secure the needed matching funds since the grant program started in 2010.
N.C. New Schools is a Raleigh-based public-private partnership that works on developing early college high schools and STEM schools, professional development for teachers and principals, and relationships between industries and high schools.
N.C. New Schools received a $15 million grant in 2011 under the same competitive program.
With the new money, the organization proposes to set up six more early college high schools in North Carolina; develop seven schools in the state that can be used as models for teachers from around the country; work with two states to start similar schools, and help two additional states develop policies and laws that will allow early college high schools to flourish as they have here.
“It's a very expansive project," said Tony Habit, New Schools president. "It's just a remarkable opportunity.”
The state has 76 early college high schools in the network supported by New Schools, the State Board of Education, the UNC system or the state Community College System. Many students enrolled are the first in their families to attend college.
The locations of the new North Carolina high schools and the four states New Schools will work with under the grant are not set, Habit said.
“Successful early colleges require a deep commitment by the higher education partner, the local school district, and policies in the state that would allow that school to thrive," Habit said. "North Carolina has accomplished those things.”
Expected results from the $20 million are increased graduation rates of five percentage points among participating schools, and increased enrollment in college courses.
The organization used its $15 million grant from 2011 to help about 20,000 students at traditional high schools take college courses, Habit said. The money was spread across 18 schools in 11 districts.
In Madison County, 90 high school students took college courses for credits that their families didn’t have to pay for later, Habit said.
“That points out how expanding this work is beneficial for children and for local communities,” he said.