Gov. Michael F. Easley has proposed an expansion of a state program that allows North Carolina students to take college courses, and even earn associate’s degrees, while completing their high school studies.
In his Feb. 19 State of the State Address, the Democratic governor called for the Learn and Earn program to be offered to students throughout the state in the coming years. The program is set to expand from 35 schools to 75 by the 2008-09 school year.
The program, based on community college and university campuses, has been credited with providing a diploma alternative for students at risk of dropping out, while also allowing highly successful students to accelerate their studies.
“Today, it is the duty of every citizen to learn as much as they can, and to compete in the world economy,” Gov. Easley said. “And it is our duty to offer that opportunity.”
The second-term governor also called for a new financial-aid program to allow low- and moderate-income students to attend state colleges for free. A grant amounting to the tuition for the last two years of college would be awarded to a student who earned an associate’s degree through the Learn and Earn program if he or she maintained good grades, worked 10 hours a week, and earned a bachelor’s degree.
The proposal would tap state funds and existing federal financial aid to eliminate the need for loans for students unable to afford higher education, although the governor did not give a cost estimate in his speech.
Gov. Easley also is proposing to expand an early-childhood-education program he initiated five years ago. The More at Four preschool program, which now serves 20,000 children, would expand by 50 percent.
The state has eliminated the record-high state budget shortfall of $2.5 billion over the past couple of years, and now is expecting higher than projected revenues.
Read a complete transcript of Gov. Michael Easley’s 2007 State of the State address. (Requires Microsoft Word.) Posted by North Carolina’s Office of the Governor. Multimedia presentations of the governor’s speech are also available.
A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2007 edition of Education Week