Low-income Oahu students will get access to federal grants for 'early college' courses

Low-income Oahu students will get access to federal grants for 'early college' courses

PEARL CITY, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Low-income Hawaii high schoolers will be able to get federal grants to attend Leeward Community College, as part of a national experiment aimed at bolstering the college-going rate in low-income communities.

LCC was named as among 44 postsecondary institutions invited to participate in the pilot program. Some $20 million in federal Pell grants are being made available in the 2016-17 school year.

Under the program, students will be able to take college courses – and earn college and high school credit simultaneously.

The Obama administration hopes to enroll some 10,000 students in the program nationwide.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. told reporters Monday that the program is aimed at broadening educational opportunity to low-income students.

"The courses students take while in high school and the support they get to succeed in those courses are major factors in not only whether students go to college but also in how well they will do when they get there," King said, in a call with reporters. "The more rigorous and engaging the classes are, the better."

The program was announced last year, and required interested schools to apply to participate. They can start offering Pell grants to eligible students as early as July.

Pell grants are geared to low-income students and do not have to be repaid. They've been credited with opening access to college for millions of students nationally.

In a filing with the U.S. Department of Education, Leeward Community College said its "Early College" program already partners with three schools -- Campbell, Waianae and Waipahu high schools -- to offer dual credit courses to about 500 students. LCC said it hopes to expand the number of students served by about 30 per year.

"With the expansion of the Early College partnership, students will be able to choose and pursue formal programs of study and then access the courses relevant to those degree programs," LCC said.

The University of Hawaii has a variety of dual credit programs, but the cost of classes must be covered by students, the student's high school or by scholarship. (Private grants have also covered the costs.) About a dozen Hawaii high schools offer free dual credit programs on their campuses, including those enrolled in LCC's "Early College" program.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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