What’s New

  • Massachusetts Early College Initiative

    Baker-Polito Administration Announces Preliminary Designation Status to Early College Programs

    Some schools awarded planning grants, totaling $80,000

    January 23, 2018—In an effort to help high school students prepare for success in college, the Boards of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education invited 21 higher education/K–12 partnerships to move forward from the preliminary stage of the Massachusetts Early College designation process and submit an application for the final phase of the process. The Commonwealth was also able to award more than $80,000 in grants to these programs to support their work developing early college programs.

    The $10,000 competitive planning grants will support the work for programs to meet the criteria necessary to achieve the early college designation. These programs are expected to apply for final designation in February, with the goal of launching programs this fall.

    “Early college programs are crucial for exposing students to the opportunities higher education can create and with these designations, more students will be able to earn college credits at no cost,” Governor Charlie Baker said. “We are pleased to work with these school districts to expand or launch early college programs so their students are better prepared for successful academic and professional careers after high school.”

    “Successful early college programs boost college completion rates for students by preparing them with challenging college-level courses,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “We are happy to be able to offer these grants that will help create high-quality early college programs for more students across the Commonwealth.”

    Early college programs combine traditional high school courses with an opportunity to earn college credit at a public college or university, typically in a particular career pathway.

    Successful early college programs make college more accessible to low-income students by giving them an opportunity to learn in college-level courses while at the same time earning college credits, at no cost, which helps ease their financial burdens later. Early college has also been shown to boost college completion rates for low-income students, minorities and first-generation college-goers.

    In June, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education agreed on criteria that will enable programs to become designated early college programs. Through the designation process, the Departments of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education asked K–12 schools, community colleges and state universities to jointly design models. There are five design principles for a designated early college program, including equitable access for all students.

    “By creating designated early college programs, we are breaking down barriers between high school and higher education and creating a more seamless path for students to move to college and careers,” Education Secretary James Peyser said. “Successful early college programs do more than just prepare a student theoretically; they make students realize college is an achievable goal for them by exposing them to college-level work and college credits before they graduate high school.”

    “I’m delighted to see the Commonwealth making this commitment to early college programs,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “We know that 70% of Massachusetts jobs will require today’s high school students to have some kind of post-secondary degree or certification. Early college will help us create a new pipeline to college for students who may have felt it was beyond their reach.”

    “We know that early college programs help motivate students,” Elementary and Secondary Education Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson said. “We want to lead the nation in making these programs available in our high schools.”

    Last March, Governor Charlie Baker announced efforts to significantly increase the number of early college seats available to high school students. Currently there are approximately 2,400 students enrolled in early college programs around the state.

    In 2016, the Boards of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education looked at whether the state could devise an early college strategy. They commissioned a study, done by Parthenon-EY Education Practice, to look at what exists in Massachusetts and the possibility of expanding successful models. The report found early college is a promising model that narrows educational opportunity gaps, and existing programs were a powerful base from which to build a broader statewide early college initiative.

  • Massachusetts Early College Initiative
  • Students walk halls of Bridgewater State University

    Baker-Polito Administration Awards $1.25M to Launch New College Access and Completion Programs

    Public Campuses Awarded Grants to Support Innovation and College Readiness

    Boston, MA – February 23, 2017 – A select group of Massachusetts state universities and community colleges have been awarded a total of $1.25 million dollars through the Department of Higher Education’s Performance Incentive Fund to drive innovation throughout the public higher education system, the Baker-Polito Administration announced today. The largest share of the funds, totaling $695,000, will be used to launch new programs to allow high school students to take college courses before graduating from high school. 

    Exposing high school students to college-level material and allowing them to earn credit for their work is a worthy investment in both our students and future workforce,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The Performance Incentive Fund grants will help our public higher education system continue its important development of highly skilled and educated workers.”

    Bridgewater State UniversityBunker Hill Community CollegeMount Wachusett Community CollegeWestfield State University and Worcester State University received the college access grants. All of the campuses plan to use the funds to improve the college-going rates of students typically under-represented in higher education, including African American and Latino students, low-income students, and those who will be the first in their family to attend college. National research demonstrates that students who take college courses before graduating from high school are more likely to avoid expensive, non-credit remedial coursework in their first year of college and to go on to earn associate and bachelor’s degrees, rather than dropping out before finishing their studies.

    “These grants support the broader workforce development efforts of the Baker-Polito administration,” said James Peyser, Secretary of Education.  “The programs they make possible constitute important elements in our strategy to offer high quality career pathways to our young adults and give them a solid foundation for college and career success.” 

    “These programs are among the smartest educational investments we can make,” said Carlos E. Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Every indicator demonstrates that exposure to college helps high school students build the self-confidence and the skills they need to succeed at the post-secondary level. I was very pleased to see a high degree of creativity imbedded in the campus proposals, which will strengthen the pathways from high school to college.” 

    Bridgewater State will team with Massasoit Community College and the Brockton Public Schools to create a 100 Males to College program for Brockton teens who will benefit from the opportunity to take college-level courses and engage in family outreach activities. A separate but similar 100 Males to College program will be launched in Central Massachusetts, where Worcester State will work with Quinsigamond Community College and the Worcester Public Schools to bring college-level courses and post-secondary success strategies to male students at area high schools.

    Bunker Hill Community College will team with the University of Massachusetts Boston and the Chelsea Public Schools to create an intensive professional development program for educators focused on “culturally relevant and inclusive practices,” and will also work to align the curriculum between Chelsea High and Bunker Hill.

    Mount Wachusett Community College will adapt science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs for students from Fitchburg and Leominster who are non-STEM majors.

    Additionally, Performance Incentive Fund grants were awarded to four campuses working to tackle academic challenges that often hinder degree completion.

    Northern Essex Community College will join with Middlesex Community College to develop innovative “competency-based pathways” that align accreditation standards, core competencies and courses taken by early childhood educators.

    Berkshire Community CollegeBristol Community College, and North Shore Community College and  will each be awarded grants to develop “co-requisite” course models designed to reduce the number of students placed into non-credit remedial classes. Co-requisite models offer an alternative approach to remediation; a student who is not fully prepared for college-level work receives supplemental academic instruction and support while also taking a for-credit course, in lieu of the typical requirement to take the remedial course first. 

    >> FY17 Performance Incentive Fund Grants [PDF]

    Photo courtesy Bridgewater State University

  • Early College A&A with Chris Gabrieli
  • 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.