The mission of the Appalachian Higher Education Network AHE Network) is to increase postsecondary education attainment in Appalachia. Even when they graduate from high school, rural students are not as likely as non-rural students to enroll in college. The college-going rate in Appalachia is estimated at 50%; however, many high schools in economically distressed counties have rates between 20% and 40%. The Appalachian Regional Commission's (ARC) higher education initiative, in operation since 1998, has increased that rate in the targeted high schools. Higher education centers are now looking at the success rates their students experience in postsecondary education, and those centers are working with postsecondary institutions to monitor and increase those rates.
Created in 1998 and supported in part by the ARC, the AHE Network is composed of program centers in 10 states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia . The centers are modeled on the original center—the Ohio Appalachian Center for Higher Education—but employ varied service and operational delivery strategies that reflect and respect their particular culture and circumstances.