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.