The University of North Georgia (UNG) is supporting efforts to encourage area students to finish high school and enroll in higher education through $61,800 in grants awarded to seven area high schools.
The grants from Complete High School North Georgia, an initiative housed in UNG's College of Education, target potential first-generation college students.
"We know there are many students across northern Georgia who are qualified and capable of going to college, but for a variety of reasons don't enroll," Dr. Susan Ayres, dean of the College of Education, told grant recipients at a recent luncheon. "We really thank you for all you're doing to help make those connections with students and figure out how to make college-going become a more meaningful part of their entrance into adulthood. It's so important for communities and it's important for our regional development."
The goal to boost college enrollment among high school students in the region ties into a statewide initiative to increase the number of Georgians completing college. In 2012, the state launched the Complete College Georgia initiative based upon a 2011 study by Georgetown University that indicates Georgia needs to add 250,000 postsecondary graduates to the state's workforce by 2025 to remain competitive and maintain economic growth.
A key strategy in UNG's Complete College Georgia plan includes improving college access and completion, as Census data indicate that nearly half of the counties in the university's immediate service area have a college completion rate of less than 20 percent. Additionally, figures from the Appalachian Regional Commission show that from 2009-2013, the percentage of the over-25 population in Georgia's Appalachian counties completing a bachelor's degree or more was only 25.2 percent, lagging well behind the national average of 87.2 percent.
Sarah Widincamp, an assistant professor of middle grades education at UNG and director of Complete High School North Georgia, congratulated the recipients of the competitive mini-grants on their programs.
"I really am excited that you have such great programs in place. You have plans that I think will really help the students of north Georgia," Widincamp said. "Congratulations on the work you already have done to win this award to help improve the college-going rate of first-generation Appalachian youths in your community."
The mini grants are designated for programming like campus visits, development of SAT and ACT preparation activities, creation of career and college exploration centers and fairs, and recognition for students who apply and are accepted to postsecondary institutions.
The grant winners are:
- Chattooga County High School, $8,100
- Franklin County High School, $9,000
- Gilmer County High School, $8,950
- Hart County High School, $9,000
- Lumpkin County High School, $9,500
- Murray County High School, $8,500
- Union County High School, $8,750
The Complete High School North Georgia grants awarded by UNG were funded through the federal Appalachian Regional Commission's (ARC) Higher Education Network. The grant contract requires recipient schools to provide a 10 percent match and report on their grant activities and expenditures.