Public Finance Improves Educational Opportunities for Las Cruces, NM Public Schools
As part of a growing movement, Las Cruces, New Mexico Public Schools (LCPS) is among the U.S. public school districts to have developed early college high schools (ECHS) for its students. Students who complete the curriculum and graduate from an ECHS receive both a high school diploma and an associate's degree from their local community college. At these specialized schools the focus is on academics. ECHS students do not participate in typical high school related extracurricular activities. The dropout rate for LCPS has historically been around 35 percent. To date the drop-out rate for its first ECHS is zero. District administrators attribute this positive development to many factors, not the least of which is the support and encouragement that all students receive from their classmates. LCPS opened its first ECHS in 2010 and expects its first class to graduate in 2014.
The LCPS facilities are specialized and are located on land that has been leased to the LCPS by New Mexico State University for a nominal sum. In 2013 Capital One Public Funding, LLC (COPF) was selected to finance the second early college high school facility (ECHS II) for LCPS. Industry veteran Jeff Sharp sourced and managed the transaction for COPF.
ECHS II will open in the fall of 2014. It has been specifically designed to train students for healthcare careers or position them for further education in a healthcare related degree program. Upon graduation, ECHS II students will be able to immediately seek employment in allied health fields or pursue degrees in nursing or medicine as juniors in college. In addition to the expansion of a high school diploma into a college associates degree, the ECHS projects create an array of additional benefits for the involved institutions and the community in general, as follows:
- In many cases the students who graduate from ECHS I and II will be the first high school graduates in their families.
- The junior college involved gets additional students and graduates as a result of the school's affiliation with the ECHS program.
- New Mexico State University may get additional students who are much better prepared for a college level curriculum and the rigors of university life.
- In the case of Las Cruces, ECHS II provides the understaffed local healthcare industry with a much needed increase in trained healthcare workers.
- The ECHS program has attracted the attention of institutions such as the Kellogg Foundation, which awarded LCPS a $500,000 grant to further develop the concept.
- Capital One Public Funding has a format, a platform and a heightened level of interest in financing additional projects of this type.
Jeff echoes the sentiment of everyone at COPF in stating how rewarding the experience was to help these previously underserved students and to work with the dedicated professionals and their advisors in Las Cruces.
This case study is based on an article published in the Monitor by Bob Neptune, Consultant, Government Financing at The Alta Group.