A report from the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy has detailed three programs offered in Massachusetts that offer students the ability to earn college credits before they even graduate from high school.
The report, “Early College Designs: Achieving College- and Career-Readiness for All,” looks into three early college programs: the dual enrollment partnership between Amesbury High School and Northern Essex Community College, the STEM Pathway at Marlborough High School, and the career-oriented dual enrollment program at Mount Wachusett Community College.
“In order to achieve long-term success in today’s workforce, access to college is simply not enough,” says Carlos Santiago, Commissioner of Higher Education. “Instead, we must ensure that students persist in college and successfully attain a certificate or degree. By letting students access the rewards and demands of higher education before they complete high school, early college programs that connect high schools with institutions of higher education are an important strategy to promote college readiness and completion for students across the Commonwealth.”
The programs offer high school students both academic and non-academic support to ease the transition between high school and college, while also allowing students to begin their college coursework earlier. All of the programs discussed aim to help students develop college readiness skills and address any gaps that may exist prior to high school graduation.
“Building a comprehensive, student-centered system of support is crucial to promoting success in early college programs. With appropriate supports, participation in authentic college experiences helps high school students develop the skills that will allow them to thrive in and successfully complete postsecondary education,” said Amy Loyd, Senior Director of the Pathways to Prosperity Network at Jobs for the Future.
The report discusses the importance not only of academic support, but also non-academic support, as many students arrive on campus only to find the independence and discipline necessary to succeed difficult to deal with. This is found to be particularly difficult for first-generation college students who too-often lack the guidance needed to make the most of their college experience.
The programs believe that many of the positive outcomes associated with college are directly linked to exposure to a more rigorous courseload beforehand. Keith Westrich, Director of College and Career Readiness for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, noted that offering exposure at an earlier age allows students and teachers alike to gain the tools necessary to determine individual student needs while also better preparing students for college life and success in their future careers.