Photo courtesy Northern Essex Community College

Strategic Initiatives

Bridges to College for Adult Learners


Bridges to College supports adult college transition services that increase the number of low-income, underrepresented, entry-level adult workers who enter and succeed in postsecondary education.


David Cedrone
Associate Commissioner for Workforce Development
(617) 994-6904


2013 – Present



Related Data




Student Identities

Multiple Campuses

Related Initiatives



Initiated by the Massachusetts state legislature in 2013, the Bridges to College Program supports adult college transition services that increase the number of low-income, underrepresented, entry-level adult workers who enter and succeed in postsecondary education. Bridges to College funds programs that have achieved recognized success in bridging academic gaps of underserved adult learner populations, with this work leading to college entrance, retention, and success.

Seventeen percent of all Massachusetts residents aged 25–65 have some college credit but no degree. Most of these individuals are not currently enrolled in college. Many other adults aspire to jobs that require a college degree or certificate but are not yet ready for college-level work. Once enrolled or re-enrolled, adult students persist in their studies and earn credit at lower rates than younger students, most likely due to competing family and job related pressures. The Bridges to College Program seeks to address these issues and help adult students overcome obstacles that may stop them from completing a degree.

Eligible grant applicants are adult basic education providers, including local education agencies, community-based organizations, community colleges and correctional facilities. Grants are competitive, one-year grants and are not re-occurring.

Awarded Grants

FY22 Grantees

Bridge to College Transition–$53,027

Bristol Community College (BCC) Bridges to College transition program is designed to enhance the existing Transition to College Program and increase the number of high school equivalency graduates and learners that have completed adult education ESL programs who are prepared to enter postsecondary education. This program will provide adult learners with a successful educational and developmental experience, essential for laying a foundation for continued academic success and increased self-efficacy. The program offers a combination of instruction designed to fill academic and experiential gaps and offers continued support to students in their transition into post-secondary education. The target populations for this program are individuals who are currently working or have obtained a high school equivalency, Adult Diploma, or completed an adult education ESL program who have a goal of attending post-secondary education.

Incarceration to College–$58,027

Holyoke Community College (HCC) Bridges to College program will be implemented in two phases: 1) determine evidence-based practices for use of technology for student learning, specifically the use of individual devices (tablets, laptops) for student learning in carceral locations as well as an assessment of the library support services available to students, and 2) to offer an in-person college-level course [GSY 110] on career readiness and planning to incarcerated men and women which utilizes the chosen technological devices, employs the determined evidence-based practices for use of technology for student learning, and uses the library as a re-envisioned space for access to academic resources. The proposed program will prepare students for college and career while offering support pathways that will enhance and result in entrance, retention, and completion of college credit-bearing course work. The target population will consist of male and female incarcerated students from low-income and disadvantaged households.

Summer Bridge–$61,520

Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) Bridges to College program will continue four objectives from FY21 and add one new objective: 1) Outreach - provide targeted outreach, information and intake sessions to prospective new students at the WHA, WCAC, WCC, CRWB and other project partners resulting in 60 new enrollees with Educational Plans in 2022; 2) Academic Preparation – deliver foundational math and English classes with integrated cohort tutoring as well as a comprehensive College & Career Success Seminar; 3) Support Services – utilize counseling and peer support to enhance progress toward achieving students’ educational plans and stated goals; 4) Career Readiness – provide four career readiness workshops to support students’ transition to the workplace and higher paying jobs; and 5) Design Your Life – a new course segment focused on helping students determine personal interests and life/work. All of these will be delivered in the context of QCC’s diversity, equity and inclusion objectives.

Bridge to College–$72,186

Massasoit Community College (MCC) Bridges to College program will prepare students to enroll in college by providing them with the language, reading and writing skills, and the college awareness to be successful in a college degree program. Transitional ESOL instruction will ensure the necessary language skills, while college preparatory writing and reading instruction will ensure students are ready for college-level work. A 3-credit College Experience course will help students to understand and succeed in a college environment, while also exploring academic and career pathways. Finally, a workplace readiness seminar will address employment soft skills. All of this will be enhanced by wrap-around support services that address academic, economic, and social/emotional needs with advising, counseling, and referrals to social services, and financial aid for transportation, childcare and other barriers to participation.

FY20 Grantees

Hampden County Sheriff’s Department–$54,612

The WCC is proposing a “Bridges to College” (BtC) project that will provide academic remediation and social supports to two cohorts of 15 incarcerated female students.  Students enrolled in the BtC project will receive intensive academic instruction in English language arts (ELA) and math with the goal of eliminating or reducing the necessity of developmental classes based upon scores on the Accuplacer exam. Students also will receive supplemental instruction in digital literacy that will include the Microsoft suite of applications (Word and PowerPoint).

Bristol Community College–$55,388

The Bridges to College Transition (BTCT) program enhances the existing Step Up to College (STC) program and will increase the number of high school equivalency graduates who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. BTCT will offer a transition to college program focused on engaging 20 adult education students who have recently completed their high school equivalency and English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) programs as well as current students still enrolled in adult education programs working on HiSET completion, ESOL, or remediation. BTCT offers students guidance through the college admission and enrollment process, individual and group Accuplacer preparation workshops, two college success courses held in a cohort as well as two free three-credit college courses towards a student’s chosen degree or certificate program. Students will also receive on-going career and academic advisement and ongoing support throughout the first year of college.

Quinsigamond Community College–$75,000

Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) proposes to provide a comprehensive Bridges to College (BtC) Summer Bridge program for 40 low-income, underrepresented and entry-level adult workers from underserved populations in the City of Worcester. Project services will focus on academic preparation for college and career, outreach and support services and career preparation for workforce readiness, facilitating access to college, college retention and completion, and pathways leading to good jobs and careers.

El Centro del Cardinal Boston–$65,000

The project is designed to provide low-income adult immigrants with educational services that result in college entrance, retention, and completion.
The Bridge to College grant funding for coaching support allows the program to efficiently use the existing resources for earlier outreach and college readiness interventions, ensuring that more students begin to consider college at an earlier juncture in their academic careers. The project supports math instruction to enhance students’ math acuity and encourage interest in STEM disciplines among populations historically underrepresented in STEM fields.

FY19 Grantees

Greenfield Community College—$56,938

A summer academic and student support program modeled on the successful STEM Starter Academy that will transition a cohort of 30 adult learners with high equivalency GED/HiSET from college prep into a matriculated college-level pathway.

El Centro del Cardinal Boston—$83,269

College-oriented case management and advising services that include: targeted mathematics instruction; workplace computer applications training; and academic writing instruction classes to prepare students for college level writing and research assignments.

Hampden County Sheriff’s Department—$37,271

College transition program for females incarcerated in the Women’s Correctional Center in Chicopee, MA who are from low-income and economically disadvantaged households. The program will offer outreach and support services that will prepare students for college and careers and result in entrance, retention and completion of college credit-bearing coursework.

Quinsigamond Community College—$49,048

A one-year adult transitional support program specifically designed to improve academic and career outcomes for at-risk adult learners. This project will serve a new cohort of 20 students from the Great Brook Valley and Main South neighborhoods who are predominantly Hispanic and non-native English speakers. An estimated 17 students will matriculate to college as a result of this project.

FY18 Grantees

Jewish Vocational Services—$72,000

Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) is a non-sectarian, non-profit organization that has offered workforce development and education services to individuals with barriers to employment and advancement since 1938. Serving the Greater Boston area, its mission is to empower individuals from diverse communities to find employment and build careers, and to partner with employers to hire, develop and retain productive workforces.

JVS began Bridges to College and Careers in 2009 as a college transition program for adult learners, focusing on low-income adults, primarily persons of color and non-native English speakers. Program goals are to prepare adult learners for the rigor of college coursework and for employment in their field of study, accelerate their progress toward credential attainment, and support them through college matriculation, successful completion and job placement.

This proposal builds on the successful FY17 grant program, enrolling 30 students of which 75% are expected to matriculate into college.

Mount Wachusett Community College—$59,340

Mount Wachusett Community College will work in partnership with Worcester County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) to continue and expand upon its inmate college transition program at the Worcester County House of Corrections located in West Boylston.

This project will build upon prior success with a focus on developing an improved “handoff” between the prison and MWCC to assist more inmates to enter college post-release. This next phase of the project will serve 60 sentenced male inmates who are between 6 months to 2.5 years of release for college entry upon their release. Two tiers of service will be offered with 60 inmates participating in college and career readiness activities and up to 25 inmates qualifying to earn up to 12 college credits.

Northern Essex Community College—$75,900

Northern Essex Community College proposes to supplement adult bridge services to prepare low-income, entry-level adult workers and English language learners to enter college and attain a credential of degree resulting in employment in a high demand field.

This proposal builds on prior successes of the Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education program which informs participants of industry career pathways and employer requirements for higher education certificates and degrees as well as job specific knowledge, skills and abilities through regional labor market data. The project will serve 18-20 adult learners of which 80% are expected to enter post-secondary education or training.