Free associate degrees are in the works

JOHNSTOWN - A consortium of Hamilton Fulton Montgomery BOCES, its component school districts, Fulton-Montgomery Community College and 16 regional businesses is one of 16 winners in a statewide competition that will help prepare high school students for high-skill jobs in technology, manufacturing and healthcare.

Students, including those at Wells Central School, will earn an associate degree at no cost to their families and will be first in line for jobs with participating companies when they graduate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the news Aug. 28, saying the "groundbreaking program will give students across the state the opportunity to earn a college degree without taking on significant debt from student loans."

The NYS Pathways in Technology Early College High School (NYS P-TECH) partnerships will provide nearly 6,000 students with a high school diploma, college degree and pathway to a job. New York is the first to take the 'P-TECH' program statewide through an initiative that links education to regional economic development.

HFM BOCES District Superintendent Patrick Michel said the local grant application asked for $2.7 million for the region.

"This is exciting news for our students and our communities. The grant will allow us to redesign public education in our region, providing students access to high-paying jobs and an associate's degree from FMCC," Michel said. "I'm so proud of the collaborative effort of our partnership, and look forward to the work ahead."

The public-private initiative was launched in partnership with IBM, which helped create the P-TECH program and will provide tools, training and support to each NYS P-TECH school.

"Wells would be part of this," said Wells Central School Superintendent Tom Sincavage. "There will be no students in year one as the planning will continue throughout the 2013-14 school year in preparation for 2014-15."

The 2013-14 school year will be spent recruiting students, building partnerships and training teachers and principals. The first class of P-TECH students will be enrolled in September 2014.