A partnership of colleges led by Eastern Kentucky University and Morehead State has received a $70,000 grant to facilitate collaboration between local schools and colleges in the 44 counties of EKU’s and MSU’s service areas.

To be known as the Appalachian Higher Education Collaborative, the effort also includes community and independent colleges in the region.

The Rural Development Center, Forward in the Fifth, the East Kentucky Leadership Foundation and the New Cities Foundation also are supporting the effort, said Gary Cox, president of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities.

The other groups are contributing $17,500 to the effort, he said.

While the collaborative also seeks to promote economic development and improve health in the region, the leaders decided to make education their first priority, said Doug Whitlock, president of EKU.

Leaders of the institutions meet several times to devise ways to implement the directives of Senate Bill 1, passed during the 2009 session of the Kentucky legislature, he said.

“This won’t be the colleges telling the schools how they should be preparing students for college or what their students need to have learned before coming to college,” Cox said.

Communication will run in both directions, he said, with the colleges making their needs and expectations clear, even as the schools make clear what their capabilities and needs are.

“The goal is to improve student academic success at all levels of education and facilitate a positive transition to college,” he said.

While admitting that $87,500 is a small amount of money for a project with such ambitious goals, Cox said it will start bringing together public school and collegiate administrators with their faculties in selected school districts to discuss strategies for implementing Senate Bill 1’s directive to better align primary, secondary and post-secondary education.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 624-6622.

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