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The Georgia Appalachian Center for Higher Education

Moving the Finish Line from High School Graduation to Postsecondary and Career Success

GACHE provides competitive grant funding specifically to increase the postsecondary enrollment rates of high schools in the distressed, at-risk, and transitional counties of Georgia designated by the Appalachian Regional Commission. These counties have a significant economically disadvantaged population, high drop-out rates, and low post-secondary enrollment and education attainment rates. Funding to schools is made possible through a grant from the Appalachian Region Commission, support from business and community members, and in-kind contributions from school systems, four partner Regional Education Service Agencies, and area colleges and universities. According to research, this investment to assist students in going to college is recouped in the additional taxes they pay their first year employed.

From GACHE's beginning in January 2006 with $60,000 in funds for seven high schools, to $200,000 in grant funds awarded to 27 high schools in September 2011, GACHE has made measurable strides in increasing the post-secondary enrollment rates by 5 percentage points in the region's poorest high schools. GACHE has funded a total of 43 high schools serving more than 100,000 students, including 24,561 high school seniors, during these years.

 GACHE funds high schools that present goals and action plans that demonstrate they

  • have superintendent, principal and faculty commitment for the development and support of a college-going culture;
  • develop school and community partnerships that help ALL students succeed in pursuing postsecondary goals but who target first generation college students and those at-risk for not continuing their education beyond high school;
  • engage students in a college-ready high school curriculum, provide research and simulations to students that demonstrate the need for post-secondary programs, and provide faculty with professional development on strategies for reaching first-generation college-going students and families in poverty;
  • provide post-secondary campus and business visits for ALL students;
  • collect and use student and school-level data from required tests to make changes in programs and/or school processes;
  • maintain fidelity in the implementation and evaluation of GACHE's Best Practices and Model Program Strategies for Students; and
  • register, upload graduating student data, and analyze resulting post-secondary reports from the National Student Clearinghouse and other data sources to improve student achievement, document post-secondary enrollment rate gains, and reach school-wide post-secondary goals.

GACHE's mission is to "move the finish line from high school graduation to post-secondary and career success." This means that there must be a fundamental shift in the purpose of high schools. In the words of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, "High schools must shift from being last-stop destinations for students on their education journey to being launching pads for further growth and lifelong learning for all students."

 Our high schools are encouraged and assisted by GACHE in developing a college-going culture where every student in the school community receives both overt and covert messages that post-secondary enrollment is the expectation and a college-ready curriculum is the default for every student. Our goal is to increase the post-secondary enrollment rate of our Appalachian high school students.

Submitted by North Georgia College and State University, Dahlonega, Georgia
February 2012