By Dan Magazu
BOSTON – On Thursday, June 13, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker announced a $140,000 grant award to support the MetroWest Scholars Early-Start program at Framingham and Milford high schools.
The program aims to reach low-income and underrepresented students and families starting in 8th grade, by exposing them to in-demand professional fields and career pathways, including business, sociology/criminology, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics), and education.
The effort is being overseen by the MetroWest College Planning Collaborative, a joint college access initiative founded by Framingham State University and MassBay Community College.
“We are very grateful to Governor Baker and the Massachusetts legislature for supporting this important program,” said Framingham State President F. Javier Cevallos. “Early college programs boost completion rates for low-income students, minority students, and first-generation college-goers by
exposing them to college-level work and different career pathways before they graduate high school.”
“We are extremely thankful for Governor Baker’s support of the MassBay-Framingham State University partnership in offering an early college program,” added MassBay Community College President David
Podell. “Early college significantly impacts students’ futures. Together, MassBay and Framingham State are helping middle school students become stronger high school students, and then successful college graduates, ready for their new careers. We are proud to collaborate with our local high school partners to provide educational opportunities that will advance our students’ lives and at the same time strengthen the economy in the MetroWest region and the Commonwealth.”
The grant was one of 13 announced by Governor Baker during an event today at Bunker Hill Community College. Earlier this year, the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation committed $600,000 in support to the MetroWest Scholars Early-Start Program.
The program will overlap with the 100 Males to College program in Framingham and includes a defined pathway for students from 9 to 12 grade.
Students in 9th and 10th grades will participate in college and career awareness courses, followed by advising and counseling to support students in choosing a pathway in 11 and 12th grade. Students will
take courses in business management, education, sociology and criminal justice, and STEM.
School officials expect to have more than 120 students enrolled by the 2020-21 school year.
Governor Charlie Baker awarded designation to early college programs at 13 high schools and eight public colleges across the Commonwealth that will enroll thousands of students next fall, giving them opportunities to study in college-level courses and earn credits before they graduate high school, including the new MetroWest program.
Governor Baker and Education Secretary James Peyser made the announcement during an event at Bunker Hill Community College, organized to recognize the high schools and colleges that have launched programs designated by the state this school year.
With the new awards, there are 35 high schools and 18 colleges in Massachusetts with designated early college programs.
Early college programs combine traditional high school classes with college courses through a local 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.
By creating designated early college programs, the Baker-Polito Administration aims to break down barriers between high school and higher education to create a more seamless path for students to move to college and careers.
“Exposing students to early college is a way to create opportunities for students to earn college credits in high school and encourage them to continue pursuing a degree,” Governor Charlie Baker said. “We believe early college has such an impact on student success that our administration proposed making it part of a school district’s state aid calculations so that more districts can provide students with these opportunities.”
“Early college gives students experience in college-level work, which builds their confidence in their own ability to succeed,” Lt. Governor Karyn Polito said. “It is exciting to see more students enroll in these programs and we are thankful to the teachers and college faculty who are taking on this work.”
The Governor’s education funding legislation, An Act to Promote Equity and Excellence in Education, proposed a new enrollment category that will provide additional funding for high schools that implement Early College and Career Pathway programs.
The bill – still under consideration by the Legislature – would create a dependable revenue stream as part of a school district’s Chapter 70 aid for every student enrolled.
Currently there are approximately 2,400 students enrolled in early college and career pathway programs.
“Early College reduces the need for students to take remedial education courses in college by ensuring they are exposed to college-level work before they graduate high school. These programs build competence and confidence in students, making college an achievable reality for many young people across the Commonwealth,” Education Secretary James Peyser said.
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.
Each program awarded designation was approved by the Commissioners of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Higher Education. Programs received up to $140,000 in implementation grants.
“We know that approximately 40% of students who enter our public colleges and universities are assessed as underprepared for college coursework, with students of color disproportionately assigned to remedial courses,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos E. Santiago. “From an equity standpoint, I see early college as one of the best strategies we can implement to increase the number of students who arrive on campus ready to succeed and graduate on time.”
“Designated early college programs provide students an opportunity to connect their high school experience to college and their future career,” Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said. “I hope these opportunities will prepare and encourage more students to enroll in and persist through college.”
In 2017, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education agreed on criteria to enable programs to become designated early college programs.
Through the designation process, the Departments of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education ask K-12 schools, community colleges and state universities to jointly design models.
There are five design principles for a designated early college program:
• Equitable access for all students
• Guided academic pathways
• Enhanced student supports
• Relevant connection to career
• Deep partnerships between high schools, community colleges and state universities