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ARC: Appalachian Regional Commission

IEL: Institute for Educational Leadership

About the Appalachian Higher Education Network

The mission of the Appalachian Higher Education Network AHE Network) is to increase postsecondary education attainment in Appalachia.  Even if they graduate from high school, rural students are least likely to enroll in college. The college-going rate in Appalachia, defined as participation in any postsecondary education or in the military by the fall following graduation from high school, is estimated at 50%; however, many high schools in ARC-designated economically distressed counties (98 of a total 420 in FY 2013) have rates between 20%-40%.  The Appalachian Regional Commission's (ARC) higher education initiative, in operation since 1998, has increased that rate in the targeted high schools. Centers are now looking at the success rates their students are having in postsecondary education and working with those institutions to monitor and increase those rates.

Created in 1998 and supported in part by the ARC, the AHE Network is currently composed of program centers in ten 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 (OACHE) - but employ varied service and operational delivery strategies that reflect and respect their particular culture and circumstances.

United by the common goal of increasing postsecondary education attainment, the centers serve as clearinghouses of information and as providers of service. They work with schools, economic development agencies, and postsecondary educational institutions serving educationally and economically distressed counties in Appalachia. The goal is to provide programs, training and services that help students overcome social, cultural, emotional, and informational barriers to continuing and being successful in their education beyond high school.

The research confirms that intentionally designed activities, practices, and policies can influence the development of college-going cultures and postsecondary success in predominantly rural schools. Thus, the centers provide a range of services including:

The centers understand that there is a strong relationship between education and the labor market, and that, in today's economy, some postsecondary education or training is necessary for just about all "good jobs", jobs that pay a living wage and have potential for advancement.  This understanding has led to stronger relationships between economic development agencies in the region and to the creation of different program models designed to nurture and strengthen these relationships. Today, some centers provide resources to connect the community and the high schools and work to promote the understanding that a well-educated population is vital to economic development in the region.

The Network also promotes and maintains connections among high school principals in Appalachia. Working in partnership with diverse state and local organizations, the centers are developing more relationships between and among high school principals and connecting high schools to additional resources that are helping to increase principals' capacity to establish college-going cultures in their schools and their capacity to improve student learning leading to success at the postsecondary level as well as the workplace.

To learn more about each center's work, click on the state name below/above/in the box…..