Development and Progress of the Appalachian Higher Education Network
AHE NETWORK CENTERS
Figure 3 Appalachian Higher Education Network Service Areas
The Institute for Regional Analysis and Public Policy at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, established the Kentucky Appalachian Higher Education (Kentucky AHED) Center in August 2000. The Kentucky AHED Center is a collaborative effort with Hazard Community and Technical Colleges, Southeast Community College and the Kentucky Department of Education. On the Board of Directors are Rowan Technical College, Cumberland Valley Technical College and the University of Kentucky. With Morehead State College almost equaling the initial ARC grant of $50,000 and Hazard and Southeast contributing about $20,000 each, the center was able to fund and provide technical assistance to four high schools during its first full year of operation. The second and third years of operation saw the same levels of funding and was able to provide grants to additional schools each year. Over those three years, the college-going rates of the schools receiving grants from the center have gone up an average of almost 20 percentage points (see Table II) with most schools at or above the national average college-going rate in 2003.
Kentucky AHED works closely with the statewide and local GEAR-UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs: A college access program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that focuses on an entire cohort of students and follows them from grades 7 through 12. While GEAR-UP has an emphasis on providing a more challenging middle and high school curriculum, the AHE Network emphasizes overcoming the social, cultural, and emotional barriers to attending college) and other college access programs, both supporting and complementing their efforts. The center serves 38 high schools (while only four high schools receive grants and intensive support, information on applying for college and financial aid and college and career fairs are offered to their self-designated 23-county region) in 23 Appalachian Kentucky counties. Morehead State University currently supports the center while it searches for additional sources of funding to continue making grants to high schools and to expand operations to all of Appalachian Kentucky.
Hale County Appalachian Center for Higher Education (HCACHE) also opened in September of 2000. Run by the Hale Empowerment and Revitalization Organization (HERO) Family Resource Center in partnership with Shelton State Community College, HCACHE serves only a single county with five high schools. While the grants to the schools are not competitive in that all five schools can—and did—receive awards, the schools must submit acceptable proposals indicating how they intend to manage and use the funds. HERO equally matched Commission funding of $50,000, enabling them to fund and support all five high schools in the county. College-going rates in the five high schools have increased between 22 and 50 percentage points. All five now have higher college-going rates than the national average, with Greensboro West High School achieving a 100 percent rate in 2003.
HCACHE is now finishing its fourth year, with a grant from the state of Alabama and one-third of its support coming from the Hale County Board of Education. The Hale County Board has been picking up an increasing share of the costs each year and HERO is reaching out to corporations and foundations to help provide long-term support.
The North Mississippi Education Consortium based in Tupelo, Mississippi, opened the North Mississippi Appalachian Center for Higher Education (NMACHE). The consortium is a collaborative of the University of Mississippi School of Education, Northeast Mississippi Community College, Northwest Mississippi Community College, Itawamba Community College and 41 public K-12 school districts located in North Mississippi. NMACHE serves the entire Appalachian Mississippi region with a particular emphasis on serving high schools located in economically distressed counties. During its two years of operation, NMACHE was able to fund and provide assistance to six high schools. The gains in college-going rates in those schools ranged from 2 to 55 percentage points with an average gain of close to 29 percentage points. Three schools now have college-going rates over 90 percent and in one school, Jumpertown High School, 100% of its senior class graduated and then continued their education.
In 2004, NMACHE plans to move to Itawamba Community College. Itawamba Community College will house NMACHE with similar college access programs that will be able to support and complement one another. NMACHE will continue to work throughout northeastern Mississippi in collaboration with other postsecondary institutions and local school districts. The goal will remain getting more students to continue their education beyond high school without a focus on any one particular school.
The University of Tennessee operates the Tennessee Appalachian Center for Higher Education (TnACHE) in partnership with Roane State Community College, Walters State Community College, the Appalachian Rural Systemic Initiative (ARSI), the Southeastern High School Equivalency Program, America's Promise of Campbell County, the Tennessee Career Information Delivery System and several local school districts. The TnACHE service area includes all economically distressed counties of Appalachian Tennessee (as designated by ARC in FY 2002) with an initial emphasis in Campbell, Cocke, Fentress and Scott Counties. These four counties already had GEAR-UP and other programs in place with which the TnACHE projects can collaborate, thus facilitating start up of the center. TnACHE funded four high schools in its first year. These schools showed an average gain of 16 percentage points in their college going rates. TnACHE is currently funding and providing intensive assistance to four high schools, three continuing from last year and one new.
Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, built on existing partnerships with Western Carolina University, the University of North Carolina Office of the President, and Southwestern Community College to establish the Appalachian Higher Education Access Network of North Carolina. Other community colleges, the Western North Carolina Community Development Association, and the association of North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities provide additional operating support. The center operates out of Appalachian State University and is coordinated with federally funded TRIO (TRIO refers to a set of federally funded college access programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education. TRIO programs emphasize identifying specific students or groups of students for participation, while the AHE Network centers work with entire cohorts and, in many cases, entire schools) and GEAR-UP programs and the state-funded New Century Scholars program. The North Carolina center currently funds and works programs in with two high schools.
Southwest Virginia Community College and Mountain Empire Community College jointly operate the Virginia Appalachian Center for Higher Education (VACHE). VACHE is based at the Educational Opportunity Center at Southwest Virginia Community College. In addition to coordinating with the outreach efforts of the Educational Opportunity Center, VACHE also works with the federally funded Upward Bound, Talent Search (both part of the TRIO program) and GEAR-UP programs. High school partner programs form organizations to connect the schools with area businesses and corporations to improve school-business communications. This school-business partnership sponsors job fairs for students, provides career information, and assists the students in identifying their postsecondary educational needs and options. VACHE has funded and begun to work with six high schools in their service area.