12 Arkansas Colleges Sit out program for high schoolers.
The Legislative Audit Division is investigating allegations that the Southeast Arkansas Education Service Cooperative, which runs the program, pressured teachers to inflate grades for the students. The teachers are employed by the cooperative, not the colleges.
While the audit is under way, colleges that have opted out of the program include Arkansas Northeastern College, Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, ASU at Beebe, ASU at Heber Springs, Black River Technical College, Cossatot Community College, East Arkansas Community College, Henderson State University, Phillips County Community College, Southern Arkansas University, University of Arkansas Community College at Hope and the University of Central Arkansas in Conway.
Only four colleges are participating in the program and overall enrollment has grown, program officials say. High school students are enrolled in more than 2,000 classes for this school year, up from about 1,800 last year, according to Judy Jones, the program director.
Ouachita Technical College in Malvern and North Arkansas College in Harrison are participating in the program. The University of Arkansas at Monticello and Arkansas Tech University in Russellville are expanding their programs, accepting students who had planned to sign up with other colleges.
Program funding for the Arkansas Early College High School program comes mostly from a $720,000 grant from the state.
Bruce Terry resigned last month from his job as cooperative director, after he was suspended. Terry's attorney has declined comment through a spokesman.
In the spring, Laura Creach, former director of the early college program, expressed concern that Terry told teachers that no student should receive less than a "B." The Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the Arkansas Department of Education then investigated.
"I saw enough smoke to think there may be some fire," said Higher Education Director Jim Purcell, who asked for the audit. "For us, we want there to be access for kids in the state, but we want there to be quality teaching and greater institutional oversight and perhaps greater oversight from this office."
Purcell sent a letter May 9 to university presidents and chancellors outlining his concerns.