Massachusetts Early College Initiative

The vision of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) and Board of Elementary & Secondary Education (BESE) is for growth and sustainability of high-quality early college partnerships connecting our state’s districts and high schools with our state’s colleges. These partnerships will all be aimed at giving thousands of Massachusetts students, especially first-generation college-goers, access to college completion and career success.

Early College Joint Committee

The Early College Joint Committee is charged with designing, developing and coordinating the administration of a Massachusetts early college program based on the process and key design principles set forth in the joint resolution PDF of the Boards of Elementary & Secondary Education and Higher Education, approved at their joint meeting on January 24, 2017.

Design Principles

Under the Early College Designation put forth by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) and Board of Elementary & Secondary Education (BESE), approved designated early college programs in Massachusetts will align with the following design principles:

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1. Equitable Access

targeting students underrepresented in higher education

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2. Academic Pathways

that are well integrated and aligned with college and career

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3. Robust Student Support

in both academics and advising

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4. Connections to Career

through workplace and experiential learning experiences

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5. High-Quality & Deep Partnerships

between high schools and colleges

Designated Early College Programs

Seventeen Early College Programs have received Massachusetts Early College Designation, following a rigorous two phased application process based on the Massachusetts Early College Criteria.  In May 2018, the Early College Joint Committee granted the first designations, to five programs. Four more programs were designated in July 2018. During the 2018-2019 school year, nearly 1,500 students will be enrolled in designated early college programs around the state. By 2019-2020, enrollments in designated early college programs are projected to jump to 2,280. As of April 10, 2019, seventeen early college programs have now received official designation status.

Partnerships with Official Designation
Institutions of Higher Education Partner(s) District (High School)/Charter School Partner(s)
1 Bunker Hill Community College Boston Public Schools (Charlestown High School)
2 Bunker Hill Community College Chelsea Public Schools (Chelsea High School)
3 Holyoke Community College Holyoke Public Schools (Holyoke High School)
4 Massasoit Community College New Heights Charter School of Brockton
5 Salem State University Salem Public Schools (Salem High School, New Liberty Innovation School, and Salem Preparatory School)
6 Merrimack College Lawrence Public Schools (Lawrence High School)
7 Northern Essex Community College Lawrence Public Schools (Lawrence High School)
8 Westfield State University Holyoke Public Schools (Holyoke High School)
Springfield Public Schools (High School of Commerce and Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy)
Westfield Public Schools (Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy)
9 Worcester State University and Quinsigamond Community College Worcester Public Schools
(Burncoat Senior High; Claremont Academy; Doherty Memorial High; North High; South High Community; University Park Campus; Worcester Technical High)
10 Middlesex Community College Lowell Public Schools (Lowell High School)
11 Middlesex Community College Nashoba Valley Technical High School
12 Bunker Hill Community College Boston Public Schools (Madison Park Technical Vocational High School)
13 Fitchburg State University and Mt. Wachusett Community College Fitchburg Public Schools (Fitchburg High School)
Leominster Public Schools (Leominster High School)
Gardner Public Schools (Gardner High School)
Sizer School, A North Central Charter Essential School
14 Framingham State University and MassBay Community College Framingham Public Schools (Framingham High School)
Milford Public Schools (Milford High School)
15 Northern Essex Community College Haverhill Public Schools (Haverhill High School)
16 North Shore Community College Lynn Public Schools
(Lynn Classical High School; Lynn English High School; Lynn Vocational Technical Institute; Fecteau Leary Alternative High School (with LVTI))
17 Quinsigamond Community College Marlborough Public Schools (Marlborough High School)

What's New

  • Students work together outside

    MA Education Boards Prioritize Early College, Establish Early College Joint Committee

    Decision follows the release of report highlighting early college high schools as a means of improving college access and postsecondary completion

    Bridgewater, MA – January 24, 2017 – Today the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and Board of Higher Education (BHE) voted unanimously to adopt a joint resolution to prioritize and advance the early college efforts in Massachusetts, including the creation of an Early College Joint Committee. Early college high schools are schools that combine the traditional high school experience with the opportunity to earn significant college credit on an intentional pathway in a rigorous, highly supportive environment.

    The Boards affirmed their shared commitment to helping students attain the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to succeed in college and careers, be engaged citizens and lead productive and fulfilling lives. The Boards recognized that early college programs that allow high school students to experience and complete college level academic work and reduce the time and expense of earning a college credential can be a powerful tool to achieve the Commonwealth’s overall goals for educational achievement.

    “The joint resolution adopted by the boards today is part of the Baker-Polito Administration’s larger strategic efforts to strengthen career pathways, including more opportunities for students to engage in early college programs, and to ensure students are on a path to succeed in school, in their careers, and in life,” said Secretary of Education Jim Peyser. “Today the members of both boards expressed our appreciation to Parthenon-EY and the Barr Foundation, the members of the Steering Committee, and the Working Group, and look forward to the Early College Joint Committee’s recommendations in helping us build a scalable statewide early college initiative.”

    “For all students, particularly first-generation and those traditionally underrepresented in postsecondary education, early college is an opportunity to engage in college-level work, develop a deeper understanding of the college experience, and get a jumpstart on their college degree,” said Chris Gabrieli, Chairman of the Board of Higher Education. “We are pleased to work with schools and communities to help create new programs to support students in early college and through high-quality career pathways by 2018.”

    “We are proud that local school districts, postsecondary institutions, and non-profit organizations across the Commonwealth have pioneered early college models and promoted their expansion for many years,” said Paul Sagan, Chairman of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Early college programs can help improve high school graduation and college completion rates, and allow students an opportunity to experience career-related activities in a high-demand field or industry.”

    “Massachusetts has traditionally focused on high performance and academic standards, and I am thrilled that we are now also addressing at a statewide level how high skills apply to a variety of careers,” said Nancy Hoffman, Senior Advisor, Jobs for the Future, and Chair of the Board of Higher Education’s Academic Affairs Committee. “We’ve learned lessons from around the country and are now able to build best-in-class early college programming.”

    The joint resolution approved today established a 5-member Early College Joint Committee comprising the chairs of the BESE and BHE or their designees, an additional member of each board designated by the chairs, and the Secretary of Education, to oversee the development of a process for designating Massachusetts Early College Schools, working with both commissioners and departments to develop a process for reviewing, approving, overseeing, and evaluating applicants for the new designation as well as helping to guide the growth of the effort. A full proposal will be brought back to both boards for final approval by June 30, 2017.

    The Early College Joint Committee is charged with designing, developing and coordinating the administration of a Massachusetts Early College program based on the process and key design principles set forth in Massachusetts Early College Schools. In January 2016, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Board of Higher Education met together to discuss the topic of early college programming and to better understand the entire spectrum of early college models found throughout the Commonwealth. One result of the meeting was a joint expression of interest from BESE and BHE to further explore the early college landscape in Massachusetts. Through the support of the Barr Foundation and partnership with Parthenon-EY, a joint steering committee and working group was charged with exploring the role that early college pathways could play in helping improve college access and postsecondary completion in Massachusetts.

    Parthenon-EY presented their initial findings to BHE in September 2016 followed by a presentation at the BESE’s December 20, 2016 meeting. The report, entitled Breaking Down Silos to Put Students on the Path to Success: The Promise of Early College in Massachusetts, was also discussed at today’s joint board meeting. The Parthenon-EY report highlights a number of advantages to the state’s use of early college high schools as a means of improving college access and postsecondary completion, particularly for first-generation college students, including the strategy’s alignment with state goals, the strong foundation of local early college programs, and the ability to achieve improved outcomes at reasonable costs.

    This effort is consistent with a broader parallel initiative to define and develop high quality career pathways, for which the Commonwealth has just received a $2 million grant from the Council of Chief State School Officers and JP Morgan Chase.

  • Massachusetts Early College Initiative

    Baker-Polito Administration designates four more early college programs to give students a head start

    In May 2018, the Administration granted official designation status, for the first time, to five programs. Four more programs were designated in July 2018.

    BOSTON — The Baker-Polito Administration today gave official designation to four additional early college programs that will help high school students prepare for college academics, while earning college credits at no cost to them. The four new programs – at public high schools in Lawrence, Holyoke, Westfield, Springfield, and Worcester – will bring the statewide total to nine and enroll thousands of students this fall to study in a particular field that interests them.

    Early college programs combine traditional high school classes with college courses through a local public college or university to give students knowledge and exposure to an area of study, while earning up to 12 college credits – equivalent to one semester ­- for free. Early college boosts college completion rates for low-income students, minority students, and first-generation college-goers by exposing students to college-level work and different career pathways before they graduate high school. The college courses are designed to fulfill high school graduation requirements and award college credit.

    By creating designated early college programs, the Baker-Polito Administration aims to break down barriers between high school and higher education in order to create a more seamless path for students to move to college and careers.  In May, the Administration granted official designation status, for the first time, to five programs.

    "Boosting the number of early college programs in the Commonwealth is a priority for our administration that will provide more students with an opportunity to attend and complete college,” Governor Charlie Baker said. “Exposing high school students to college courses in a field that interests them, and offering college credits at no cost, willmake the transition to college easier and better prepare many students for successful careers following their education.”

  • Early College A&A with Chris Gabrieli





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