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Gates Foundation picks Guilford Tech for new program

Fifteen community colleges and five states have been chosen for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's new program aimed at improving remedial education at the college level and raising graduation rates of low-income and minority students.

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — Guilford Technical Community College is among 15 community colleges, along with five states, chosen by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a new program aimed at improving remedial education and raising graduation rates of low-income and minority students.

The Seattle-based foundation announced nearly $16.5 million in grants Monday for the developmental education initiative. The foundation is working with MDC Inc., a Chapel Hill, N.C., nonprofit, and Lumina Foundation for Education of Indianapolis, Ind., which pledged $1.5 million toward the effort.

Guilford Tech will receive $743,000 over three years to provide intensive advising for remedial students. The college will also create a new Learning Assistance Center.

"Colleges that can figure out how to quickly and efficiently boost basic skills, particularly among students of color and low-income students, will play a leading role in helping them earn the college degrees necessary for economic success in America today," said Carol Lincoln, director of developmental education for MDC.

The Gates Foundation announced its movement into higher education last year and made an initial grant to MDC to work on remedial education. The most promising of those ideas will be expanded with this round of grants.

A new study by Boston-based Jobs for the Future found that nearly 60 percent of students enrolling in American community colleges must first take remedial classes at what is considered the high school level.

Some colleges reported 90 percent of low-income and minority students must take high-school level classes before they are ready for college level courses. All these remedial classes cost American taxpayers more than $2 billion a year. Some of that money is wasted because many students don't complete the classes or continue their education.

More than 133,000 students take remedial classes in the 15 community colleges selected for the grants. The number of students moving from remedial to college-level classes improved 16 to 20 percent through the programs piloted by MDC and the Gates Foundation.

The grants announced Monday include programs in Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Virginia. All but North Carolina are also getting money for state programs in support of remedial education.

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