NC Governor’s School seeks alumni donations, private funding

About 30,000 high school students have attended the state’s Governor’s School program since its inception in 1963.

After lawmakers eliminated funding for the program in the most recent state budget, directors are hoping those alumni will give back to ensure the program remains accessible to prospective students.

Jim Hart, president of the Governor’s School Alumni Association, said the program’s usual celebration of its Alumni Day on Saturday will now be dedicated to fundraising efforts.

Alumni Day

Time: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday
Location: Vann Hall at Meredith College and the Salem Fine Arts Center in Winston-Salem

Governor’s School is a six-week summer residential program held at campuses in Winston-Salem and Raleigh for rising high school seniors.

Hart said Alumni Day will also consist of “a few hundred people of all ages brainstorming together” about ways to solicit more private donations.

The program must raise at least $200,000 by the end of August to gain approval from the state’s Department of Public Instruction for the operation of at least one of the two campuses, he said.

“The news that Governor’s School lost funding hasn’t been well received by alums,” Hart said. “But it has gotten lots of people charged up about doing something about it.”

Michael McElreath, director of the campus in Raleigh, said Governor’s School has traditionally been one of the few extracurricular programs in the state that did not require students to pay tuition or fees.

“There are lots of ways to reach education if your parents have enough disposable income,” he said. “Governor’s School is a way to get it without that.”

In 2010, Governor’s School began charging students $500 in tuition fees to offset cuts in state funding. Further tuition increases mandated by state education officials would change the nature of the program, McElreath said.

“If they say we need to charge tuition then we will,” he said. “But we think the program will be very different if everyone has to pay $2,000 to come.”

Bob Luebke, senior policy analyst at the John W. Pope Civitas Institute, a conservative policy organization in the state, said legislators felt programs such as Governor’s School would be better suited for private funding.

He said cuts to educational programs could benefit the state’s long-term economic health.

“When companies, families and states look at their own spending in a time like this, I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “It forces people to look at their own priorities and everything gets leaner and more efficient.”

Alumni Day attendees will also participate in community service events, contact other alumni and even compete in an ultimate frisbee game, McElreath said.

As of Tuesday, the Governor’s School Foundation had raised $7,507.74 in efforts to reach a weekly online goal of $10,000. The foundation would need to raise $1.5 million to fully fund the program for 800 students.

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