This May, Purdue University’s Board of Trustees rebranded its College of Technology as Purdue Polytechnic Institute. This move signals much more than a name change: at issue is a major transformation of the College’s programs into an innovative, synthesized learning experience that better meets the demands of today’s industries. Then a month later, Purdue announced a plan to increase accessibility to the Polytechnic Institute for underserved Indianapolis students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis High School will open in 2017 as a charter school specially designed to provide students with a foundation in STEM. The proposed charter school—the result of cooperation between Purdue, USA Funds (an education non-profit), EmployIndy, and the city of Indianapolis—will also establish educational partnerships with industry through internships and work-place learning. Students who complete the charter school’s program will earn either enrollment at Purdue Polytechnic Institute or the certifications necessary to join the industrial workforce. Although there have been a number of proposals to help underserved students, most recently the federal apprenticeship program, Purdue’s initiative stands out as particularly promising. Rather than depending on legislation and federal dollars, Purdue is developing a robust, school-based model for engaging the community—including disadvantaged students— by providing necessary academic support and by partnering with industry.
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