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Massachusetts Early College

April 13, 2021

At a Glance

Massachusetts early college high school programs are laying the groundwork for young people across the state to successfully transition from high school to college and careers.

Anna O'Connor Senior Director
Nancy Hoffman Senior Advisor
Joanna Mawhinney
Practices & Centers Topics

The Promise of Early College

Early college high school combines rigorous college-level coursework with a high level of support and encouragement from teachers, counselors, and mentors.

Through early college programs, students in grades 9 to 12 earn at least 12 transferable college credits—and up to an associate’s degree—by the time they graduate from high school.

Early college programs are uniquely positioned to create equitable pathways that truly support all young people in college and careers.

Early college programs accelerate college and career readiness for students from low-income households, English learners, and those whose prior academic experiences have not prepared them well for a collegiate path. They also help address financial concerns because students can earn college credits for free. And those benefits multiply: By reducing both the cost of a postsecondary education and the time it takes to earn a degree or credential, early college programs ease students’ pathways to well-paid jobs in careers that offer opportunities for economic advancement.

I decided to join MetroWest Scholars Early Start program because I believe it is a good opportunity and that it would most likely help me in the future. One thing that I have achieved through the program is to obtain college credits and learn new things that will help me in the future.

Ninth grader, Framingham High School Early College

Massachusetts launched its early college high school initiative in 2017 to provide students, especially first-generation college-goers, a pathway to college and career success.

The movement has rapidly expanded to 38 high schools in partnership with 20 colleges and universities in the past four years, providing young people across the state with increased postsecondary access. During the 2020-21 school year, nearly 3,500 early college students are expected to earn a total of 24,000 college credits, saving their families $5.2 million in tuition and fees.

Initially, the Massachusetts Early College Initiative set a goal of enrolling at least 16,000 students. Encouraged by positive early results, state leaders are advocating for a more ambitious goal (45,000 students) that will markedly reduce gaps in degree completion and prepare a more diverse talent pipeline for the many opportunities in the state.

The Learning Community

In 2018, the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation awarded JFF funding to lead a learning community to support six of the state’s 23 early college partnerships. The members of this learning community collaborate to expand and strengthen both individual programs and the early college movement across Massachusetts and the country.

In Partnership With

An Education Powerhouse: Massachusetts Early College High School Series

Learn about the emerging work and impact of the Massachusetts Early College Initiative.

Read the Series

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