GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Fifty 9th graders started their high school experience on a college campus Tuesday.
The students, part of Guilford County School's new STEM Early College will graduate in 2016 with two years worth of college credit under their belt.
STEM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and math. U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education Tony Miller says there's a great global need for American schools to focus on these kinds of classes.
"Recently having been to Singapore, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, Japan and you see many of those are the leading education systems in the world," he said. "And you see their focus on STEM, and again it’s a global recognition that those kinds of skills in an increasing technological focus world, are extremely valuable."
Miller said companies want these kinds of engineering skills in their employees. "Employers have recognized that the skills you learn in these technical fields are very valuable and applicable. When you look at STEM, STEM as a field, as a segment of the economy is expected to grow at 70 percent more than the economy as a whole," Miller said.
He said when you look at the healthcare industry, the jobs are growing even faster. Guilford County School's STEM Early College is part of a partnership with North Carolina A&T State University.
Regional Superintendent Dr. Terry Worrell said the school system pays for the teachers and staff; the university pays for the facilities students use in Smith Hall on campus. When students begin taking college classes as juniors and seniors, Guilford County Schools will pay for each student's college tuition.
The STEM Early College will add 50 freshmen students each year until it reaches it's capacity of 200 high school students. More than 150 students applied to get in. Accepted students proved their interest in math and science through essays and grades. They also got a recommendation from a teacher.