Grant allows more students to take college courses

Feb. 08, 2013 @ 12:11 PM

Students at East Rutherford High School can get a head start with college courses under a North Carolina New Schools initiative. 

North Carolina New Schools is leading an effort in a number of rural school districts to provide students in traditional high schools with the opportunity to earn college credit before graduation. 

"The idea is to keep students in school and help them see their way to being more prepared for college or more prepared for a job," said Superintendent Janet Mason. "Every high school student cannot go to school on a community college or university campus, but we want to be able to give more students that opportunity and experience." 

According to a press release, the initiative, called North Carolina Investing in Rural Innovative Schools (NC iRIS)  is funded by a $15 million grant under the federal investing in Innovation program along with an additional $1.5 million in support from businesses and foundations. The goal of the NC iRIS initiative is for students to earn as many as 21 college credits by the time they graduate. 

Because of this grant, students at East are able to take several college courses through Isothermal Community College and any other college or university that wishes to partner with Rutherford County Schools. 

"The money will pay for tuition and fees associated with taking college classes and books," Mason said. 

According to Brad Teague, principal at East Rutherford High School, the school is still in the planning stages of what classes they want to offer. 

"There are several classes that we are planning for that we hope will make. But right now the biggest thing that we started offering this semester is a methods for success college class. It is an introductory class geared to behaviors and things you need to develop to be successful on a college campus. We began to offer that to a little over 50 tenth graders this year," Teague said. "Some of the other classes we already offered, but we are going to be able to include more students through iRIS because they are going to provide the funding. The tenth grade focus is the difference in the grant because it is giving those kids exposure to college courses as early as possible." 

One condition of the grant is that 80 percent of the students in the program have to meet one out of three criteria. 

"They have to be a first generation college student, under-represented in college or a student we have determined may be at risk of failing or dropping out," Teague said. "We get the grant funding for three years. We probably have near 80 students enrolled in college courses right now. Our goal is to double that next year up to 160 and in the third year we are hoping to have close to 300 kids in college courses." 

Teague says that he believes participating in these college classes will get the students thinking about what they want to do in the future. 

"You want them already thinking past graduation and about the big picture," Teague said. "To get them enrolled in a college class and then have success in that college class, reinforces the thought that they can do this." 

Chase High School and R-S Central High School will be added to the grant program for the 2013-14 school year. In addition to Rutherford County Schools, other districts included in the initiative are Alleghany, Beaufort, Hertford, Jones, Madison, Rutherford, Surry, Wilkes, Warren and Yancey.