Edwards ending college program

Effort sponsored scholarships

ROB CHRISTENSEN, Staff Writer

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is pulling the plug on a scholarship program he started at an Eastern North Carolina high school — a program he once promised would be a model for the nation under an Edwards presidency.

Edwards’ presidential hopes have evaporated. And he recently informed Greene County officials that he would end the pilot program at Greene Central High School.

“We sent a communication out to upcoming seniors and their parents,” said Randy Bledsoe, principal of Greene Central High. “Some are saddened that the opportunity is not going to be there for their children. But we’ve had a lot of positive reaction over the years.”

Edwards started the “College for Everyone” pilot program at Greene Central High in 2005, shortly after he was the Democratic vice presidential nominee. It was a privately funded effort designed to increase the number of students at a rural high school who attend college.

The program provided the cost of tuition, fees and books at a public college for one year. In exchange, students had to work at least 10 hours a week while in college, take college preparatory courses in high school and stay out of trouble.

The program cost a total of $600,000 for the first two years and helped 190 students go to such colleges as East Carolina University, Lenoir Community College and N.C. State University. The program will help a third class, Greene County students who graduated this spring, attend college starting in the fall.

Rising high school seniors will not be able to participate.

Pamela Hampton-Garland, the director of College for Everyone, said the Greene County effort was always designed as a three-year pilot.

“The program was a huge success,” she said. “The numbers soared. The interest from students and parents and the community rose. It seemed the whole notion of college access changed.”

Patrick Miller, Greene County school superintendent, said the Edwards program helped raise the college-application rate from about 26 percent several years ago to 94 percent this year.

Although the College for Everyone Program is being phased out, Miller said he hoped it helped create a culture of college-going in the county. He also noted that there were other programs in the Greene schools encouraging students to further their education.

Edwards had been responsible for raising the money for College for Everyone. It was financed by the Center for Promise and Opportunity Foundation, a Greensboro-based nonprofit organization he started. Edwards’ spokesmen had previously declined to disclose the foundation’s donors.

During his presidential run, Edwards had said he wanted to extend College for Everyone nationally to 2 million students at a cost of $8 billion. Edwards said he would pay for it by changing the way student loans are made, cutting out banks as middlemen.

“The chance to go to college meant everything in my life, and I want every young person to have the same chance,” Edwards said last year during a visit to the high school in Snow Hill.

(News researcher Denise Jones contributed to this report.)

News researcher Denise Jones contributed to this report.