LUMBERTON — A change in eligibility requirements for Robeson County’s Early College High School has administrators scrambling to put together the class for next school year.
“We’re under a tight timeframe,” said county schools Assistant Superintendent Tommy Lowry, who is in charge of the program. “These students are back in school August 5th.”
The new policy allows students who are not enrolled in the Public Schools of Robeson County to participate in the Early High School program. Until the county school board recently tweaked the policy, only students enrolled in the county’s public schools were eligible to attend Early College High School, which is held on the campus of Robeson Community College.
Lowry said the new policy calls for 80 percent of the 45 or 50 students in each year’s class to be first-generation college students. The remaining 20 percent can be eligible if there is documented evidence of long-term medical and/or emotional issues.
Lowry said the board’s decision to put the policy in effect for the next school year is making it necessary for applications to be taken from students in any school in Robeson County, even if it’s private. Those who applied previously and were deemed ineligible under former regulations do not have to apply again, Lowry said.
Those wishing to be considered under the new regulations must get their applications to the school system by Friday. Applications may be filed at the school district’s central office on Caton Road or on the school district’s website, Lowry said.
Before the decision was made to change the policy, more than 200 applications had been received and more than 100 interviews conducted to select the upcoming year’s class, Lowry said.
Robeson County’s Early College High School operates as a partnership with RCC. Students take their required high school courses and then participate in college classes to earn credits that can be transferred later to a four-year college or university.
Lowry said more than 50 percent of this year’s class received their associate degrees along with their high school diplomas.
“This is the best graduation rate that I can remember,” Lowry said.
Robeson County’s Early College High School was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its high level of student academic performance. It was one of only nine schools in North Carolina, and 269 schools nationwide, to earn the Blue Ribbon designation this past year.
According to the U.S.. Department of Education’s website, the Blue Ribbon Program sets a “standard of excellence for all schools striving for the highest level of achievement.” The website also states that the program honors those schools where students attain and maintain high academic goals, including those who beat the odds.