By WRAL Tech Wire STEM News

RALEIGH, N.C. – In today’s global economy, there are many pathways to successful careers. Through Career & College Promise, qualified high school students in North Carolina have the opportunity to pursue these options – tuition free.

Gov. Bev Perdue launched the new program last week guaranteeing eligible high school students in North Carolina a clear, focused, and affordable path to a successful future.

“Career & College Promise will prepare eligible high school students for life after high school – that means college credit for some, job training for others,” said Perdue. “Regardless of whether a student plans to go to college or get a job, Career & College Promise provides focused preparation, tuition-free to the student.”

The program offers three pathways for students.

College Transfer. Earn tuition-free course credits toward a four-year degree through North Carolina’s community colleges. All North Carolina public colleges and universities are participating and many independent colleges and universities have signed on as well.

Technical Careers. Earn tuition-free course credits at a North Carolina community college toward an entry-level job credential, certificate, or diploma in a technical career.

Cooperative Innovative High Schools (limited availability). Begin earning tuition-free college credits as early as freshman year by attending a Cooperative Innovative High School, such as an Early College High School.

Participating students will be on a focused path where each course or credit they earn will move them forward toward a degree, diploma, or credential. Students who complete the program will have a jump on their post-high school work.

“North Carolina students want options for the future. Career & College Promise offers them a clear, accelerated path that puts college and career credentials well within their reach,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson.

Students who maintain a “B” average and meet other eligibility requirements can begin earning college credit or valuable job skills, tuition-free as juniors and seniors in the college transfer and technical education pathways. Students enrolled in innovative high schools can earn an associate degree and high-school diploma at the same time. Career & College Promise consolidates other dual-enrollment programs.

“Career & College Promise provides a new structure that lets qualified high school students accelerate their work toward college degrees or technical education certificates or diplomas, tuition-free,” said Dr. Scott Ralls, President of the N.C. Community College System. “Career & College Promise will save students time and money and allow North Carolina high school students to move forward on well-defined pathways, not just enroll in random college courses. It is an efficient and effective way to further student success.”

Students who select the College Transfer option will be working toward earning 44 hours of college credit that will fully transfer to a four-year institution.

“We know that education is the key to transforming our local, state and national economies,” said Tom Ross, president of the 17-campus University of North Carolina. “In fact, by 2018, an estimated 59 percent of North Carolina’s jobs will require some level of education beyond high school. Career & College Promise offers eligible high school students a head start in preparing for college and can help ensure that they have a number of seamless pathways to enroll in one of our UNC campuses.”

The program has received praise from state business leaders.

“This initiative is a bold and forward-looking approach to meet the educational needs of North Carolina’s children, while also assuring the 21st Century workforce our state needs,” said Cynthia Marshall, president of AT&T North Carolina and immediate past chair of the North Carolina Chamber. “I am convinced that every child can learn and achieve, and this plan provides a framework for success.”

Gov. Perdue proposed the initiative in her State of the State address earlier this year. The first students will begin work in the program in spring 2012 semester.

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