IBM Teams With Appalachian Colleges And Universities To Promote Tech Studies And Careers

Schools are in danger of losing IT courses if enrollment doesn't increase
IBM is teaming with the Appalachian College Association to encourage young people in that part of the country to pursue tech careers.

"Appalachia is on the wrong end of the curve" in economics and education, says Martin Ramsay, chief institutional technologist at the association, a nonprofit consortium of 35 private and public colleges and universities in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Some of the schools don't have computer science or related programs, and many of the ones that do are in jeopardy of shutting them down because of falling enrollment in tech courses, Ramsay says.

Many students are being dissuaded from pursuing tech careers because their parents hear so much about "jobs going to India," Ramsay says. But the colleges, with IBM's help, hope to show that there are many opportunities for technology careers, he says. About 39,000 students attend the schools in the consortium, which has a combined faculty of about 3,250.

One year and enrollment's up, Martin Ramsay says

One year and enrollment's up, Martin Ramsay says
The poverty rate in central rural Appalachia is 27%, more than double the national average of 13%. The high school graduation rate lags 10% behind the U.S. average, and college graduations lag 35% behind the national average, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The initial focus of the program is to keep current programs going. IBM is providing $5 million in equipment and training, including middleware and tools such as WebSphere, DB2, Rational, and Lotus; discounted hardware; course materials; training; and curriculum development. IBM staff also trains educators in how to teach students skills related to open source and standards-based technologies, such as Java, Linux, security, and networking.

Bryan College is the program's pilot school. The Dayton, Tenn., school already has seen a 10% increase in its computer science enrollment, from 20 to 22, since it launched the pilot about a year ago, Ramsay says. The program is expected to help 350 to 500 students when it officially kicks off in the fall.

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