The second year of the College for Everyone Program at GreeneCentral High School rural North Carolina has begun. Greene County Schools are in an poor (70 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch) and ethnically mixed district (about 50% African-American, 33% White, and 15% Hispanic) in Snow Hill in eastern North Carolina (about 60 miles southeast of Raleigh). The program pays for students' freshman year at any of the state's 16 public universities or community colleges in counties surrounding Greene. The "College for Everyone" program covers the college bills of high-school seniors who complete a college prep or college tech course in high school, refrain from using drugs or alcohol, and don't get suspended or commit a crime. Scholarship winners must also promise to spend 10 hours a week during their first year of college volunteering. Low-income families and first-generation students are especially targeted for the scholarships and the CFE program works in concert with the College Summit organization.
Led by former Senator and Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards, the College for Everyone Program is run under the auspicious of the Center for Promise and Opportunity foundation which solicited private donations (a large part of which came from Edwards himself). Obviously for this Plan to go state-wide or nation-wide it would need tax dollars or lottery money (like the Hope Scholarships in Georgia, Promise in West Virginia, and KEES in Kentucky).
On 14 September, John Edwards returned to Green Central High School to encourage the class of 2007 to take advantage of the "College for Everyone" program and extended his offer to about 150 seniors.
Edwards met with two groups of seniors to stress the importance of meeting deadlines for the SAT, college applications and financial aid, and also to advertise CFEs extension to all 16 state public universities and community colleges in Wayne and Wilson counties.
Kinston Free Press
Last year, in its first year, the Program spent $300,000 and helped cover college costs for 70 GCHS graduates, 63% of the senior class.
"All the early indications say this program is going to be very successful," said Edwards, who grew up in Robbins, about 140 miles west of Snow Hill. "My hope is that it will become a model for the rest of North Carolina and the rest of the country."
"For some in eastern North Carolina, the biggest roadblock is finances," said Greene Central Principal Randy Bledsoe. "And more than providing scholarships, Sen. Edwards is spreading a positive message for these students: that those who strive will have options."
"Without College for Everyone, I wasn't sure I would be able to go away to college like I wanted," said Amber Harper, a Greene Central graduate now attending North Carolina State University, Edwards' alma mater.
Its amazing. There is a different attitude about going to college (in Greene Central), [GCHS student Banks] Nimmo said. Before, you would talk to some people who would say Im not going to college. Theres no reason. But you talk to those same people now, even if its LCC or Pitt (Community College), and theyre going to go.
Kinston Free Press
College enrollment from the school hovered at about 25 percent two years ago, so the program encouraged about 35 students to attend college who probably wouldn't have otherwise. Administrators at Greene Central High School say Edwards' pledge helped nearly double the number of college-bound seniors. Students agree that the enticement has encouraged them to study harder so they can go to college:
Senator Edwards speech was really encouraging. It made me, as
an underclassman, want to work harder so that I will get a College for Everyone Scholarship. Since John Edwards actually came to the school and talked to us personally, it made me feel like he was really serious about this program, said sophomore Trey Beaman.
From the student newspaper report on the program and Edwards May visit.
Edwards originally called for a "College for Everyone" Plan during the 2003-2004 Democratic Party primaries (see his booklet "Real Solutions for America" page 42). Like the NC pilot program, the original "College for Everyone" Plan offered one year of tuition at public universities and community colleges to successful high school students and asked that scholarship winners volunteer in their communities for 10 hours a week.
This is exactly the sort of program -- and maybe even one more ambitious (and one that includes private school) -- that should be at the core of a new Democratic Agenda that includes specifics and pushes progressivism forward (rather than merely defending the remaining programs of the New Deal and Great Society). It accomplishes several positives: it gets more kids to strive for and attend college and it helps instill an ethic of virtuous community involvement through the volunteer requirement. Kudos to John for making his vision of a tuition program a reality (at least for the kids of one county and hopefully for all Americans in the future).
"This is a model of what we could and should be doing for the whole country,"
The bottom line:
"This gives everyone an equal opportunity to go to college," said student body president Robert Taylor Jr. (from Fayetteville
and what could be more American than that?
Sorry about the formatting issues, I tried my best.
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