Accuracy in Media

Former Sen. John Edwards has decided to end a college scholarship program that he proposed to expand nationally if elected president.

From Education Week.

Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards has decided to discontinue a North Carolina college-scholarship program that he had proposed expanding nationally if elected president.

But officials of the program and the school district it benefited say it had always been thought of as temporary, and the program’s director says it may still be proposed as a national model to whoever wins this year’s presidential race.

The privately financed College for Everyone program, established in the Greene County school system, in eastern North Carolina, in the fall of 2005, provided students with college-application advice and this promise: As long as they completed college-preparatory courses, stayed out of trouble, and agreed to work at least 10 hours a week while enrolled in college, the program would cover a year’s tuition and fees, as well as book costs, at a public college in the state (The Chronicle, July 7, 2006).

Mr. Edwards first proposed the idea during his unsuccessful 2004 bid to be the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee and then set up a smaller-scale version of the program on his own after returning to North Carolina after the election (The Chronicle, July 7, 2006). He then made the proposal—on a national scale—a centerpiece of his bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, as part of a platform heavily focused on improving college access (The Chronicle, December 7, 2007).


‘Lucky to Get 3 Years’


The program’s director in Greene County, Pamela G. Hampton-Garland, said in an interview on Thursday that the program had always been considered a three-year pilot effort, expected to end with this year’s graduating class at the county’s main high school, Greene Central. “There is nothing that changed from the original planning,” she said.

Patrick C. Miller, superintendent of the Greene County school district, said district officials did not know the program had only a three-year life, but “we always knew it was a pilot—it was always year to year.” Mr. Miller said students asked Mr. Edwards if a new round of scholarships would be available for the coming year when he spoke at Greene Central High School in late May, and he did not give them a definitive answer.

“It was a few days later that we found out that this would be indeed ending,” Mr. Miller said. “We were lucky to get three years out of it.”

The termination of the program became widely known this week, after local newspapers reported that Greene Central officials had mailed out letters to parents telling them the scholarships would no longer be available. Mr. Edwards could not be reached for comment on Thursday.


A Model for the Next President


The Center for Promise and Opportunity Foundation, a nonprofit organization established by Mr. Edwards, had paid the roughly $300,000 that it cost to run the program each year. The foundation’s sources of private funds for the program have never been made public. It awarded 191 scholarships in its first two years.

Ms. Hampton-Garland said she would stay in her job through May 2009, as an evaluation is conducted to determine how the students who received the scholarships fared in college. Assuming the evaluation’s results are positive, the program will be suggested as a model to whoever is elected president this fall. “The ultimate objective was for it to be something for everyone, not just for Greene County,” Ms. Hampton-Garland said.

Superintendent Miller said the Greene County school district, which serves a population that is below state averages in terms of income and education, had been making progress in increasing its college-going rate even before the College for Everyone program came along. From 2002 to 2005, the share of its graduating seniors who applied to at least one college had risen from 26 percent to 74 percent.

Mr. Miller added, however, that College for Everyone “certainly was an accelerant” in helping his school system make further progress. Of the 65 percent of seniors who graduated on time this spring, 94 percent sent out college applications. “I would say that College for Everyone had a large impact on us reaching that number,” he said.

Mr. Miller said his district was reaching out to the families of high-school students to let them know about other sources of financial aid, such as federal Pell Grants. “We are not aware of anything that can replace College for Everyone,” he said. “If you hear of anything, give us a call.”

It’s interesting to note that now Edwards is no longer a candidate and probably won’t be in the future aftre two failed presidential attempts that the program ends. Hmm.

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