For More Information Contact:
Jonathan Burman, Jane Briggs, or Tom Dunn
(518) 474-1201


Governor David A. Paterson and Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch today announced a $6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the State Education Department to establish a network of early college high schools throughout New York. The "Smart Scholars" Early College High School (ECHS) program will help groups of students who have traditionally had low rates of college enrollment and completion.

The Smart Scholars program will create early college high schools that will give students the opportunity to accelerate the completion of their high school studies while earning college credits at the same time. Students will receive additional academic support from school/college partnerships to ensure they are at grade level and ready to participate in rigorous collegiate courses. This "dual enrollment" program will therefore serve to increase high school graduation and college completion rates among those historically left in the gap, while reducing student tuition costs as a result of the compressed time needed to complete a college degree.

Governor Paterson said, "On behalf of the students across New York State who will benefit from this outstanding initiative, I would like to thank the Gates Foundation for partnering with us to offer this extraordinary opportunity.  The Smart Scholars program will make the dream of college success a reality for thousands of students who would otherwise be unable to consider the possibility.  We are anxious to begin this collaborative process with school districts and institutions of higher education."

Regents Chancellor Tisch said, "More needs to be done to ensure that students who historically have not had access to or success in college can be appropriately prepared for higher education, be successful, and complete their schooling at a cost which they and their families can afford. Smart Scholars will go a long way towards making that possible."

While high school graduation rates are steadily increasing overall, they still remain low, and performance gaps persist. For example, black students who began ninth grade in 2004 graduated at a rate 28 points lower (54%) than white students (82%). Likewise, the gap between Hispanic (52%) and white students for the 2004 cohort was 30 points.

The cost of both public and private higher education has been rising steadily, in many cases putting the hope for a college degree out of the financial reach of both low and middle income students and their families.

The Smart Scholars program will target grants to partnerships of New York State colleges and universities and public school districts (especially those serving students in high needs schools), charter schools, and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES).

State Education Interim Commissioner Carole F. Huxley said, "Allowing students to complete the high school-college continuum in less time will save money and improve their chances for success in both high school and college. The program will succeed because it utilizes the vast resources that USNY – the University of the State of New York – has to offer by linking schools and BOCES with New York’s colleges and universities."

Senior Deputy Commissioner Johanna Duncan-Poitier said, "New York State colleges have historically been very proactive in providing opportunities for high school students to earn college credit.  The Smart Scholars program will further this goal and ensure that more New York students enter college prepared to do college level work, graduate, and enter the work force in an expeditious fashion."

The following types of institutions are eligible to submit proposals to create an ECHS program:

It is anticipated that $12 million will be available over a four-year period for the ECHS program, in two distinct $6 million increments, through individual RFPs. A typical grant award will likely range from $300,000 to $500,000, depending on the number of successful applicants. Approximately 23 Smart Scholars Early College High School partnerships will be established for two cohorts of partnerships. As part of the program, partnerships will be assisted by organizations with expertise in ECHS development.

The first RFP, for the initial cohort of early college high schools, includes $6 million from the Gates Foundation. The Governor is committed to seeking the required matching funds for the second cohort in the 2010-2011 State budget. For the first cohort, approximately 11 contracts will result, with an expected start date of December 2009 for a planning phase and September 2010 for the first cohort of students. The second RFP and cohort of approximately 12 partnerships (12 contracts) -- if funded with an appropriation from the Legislature in the 2010-2011 New York State budget -- will begin its planning phase in September 2010 and will enroll the second cohort of students in September 2011.

Since 2000, the Gates Foundation has invested more than $4 billion in grants and scholarships to improve schools, raise college-ready graduation rates, and increase college completion rates.  

For more information about the program, click on the following link: