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KNOXVILLE — The Appalachian Regional Commission and the University of Tennessee have announced a new initiative to encourage more local students to complete high school and go to college.

The new Tennessee Appalachian Higher Education Center will begin working this spring with high schools in Campbell, Cocke and Scott counties.

The six high schools in those counties have an average college-going rate of 35.1 percent, compared to the national average of 65 percent, Dr. Jesse L. White Jr., ARC federal co-chairman, said at a kick-off luncheon Tuesday.

High schools working with similar ARC programs in Ohio and West

Dr. Jesse L. White Jr.

Virginia have seen college-going rates rise above 70 percent, White said.

“In other ARC states in comparable counties, we’ve seen the college-going rate double since the establishment of similar higher education programs,” White said. “Our goal is no less ambitious for Tennessee. ARC is pleased to support this latest effort.”

The Kellogg Foundation also sponsors the Tennessee Appalachian Higher Education Center, White said. Other centers recently have been launched in Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi, he said.

The ARC will offer grants, technical assistance and information on higher education to the designated schools and communities.

UT Education Dean Glennon Rowell said faculty and staff from the college would work with students, parents and teachers to support the program.

“Many students from backgrounds where their parents did not go to college need the extra help that a university can give,” Rowell said. “We are partnering with ARC to do a comprehensive approach that can improve students’ skills and instill the motivation for them to do better in school and go on to college.”

For more information on ARC programs, go to www.arc.gov.