Unlocking Opportunities with Early College


A recent presentation asked its audience through a show of hands, how many people felt that they were not fully ready for college as freshmen?

The entire room’s hands shot up.

And this was at the Massachusetts State House and the audience was full of legislators, aides, visiting educators, and activists.


Many students spend their first year at college more focused on adjusting than on learning.

According to a recent report by MassINC, Early College could be part of the solution to this pervasive issue.

On June 6th, the public policy thinktank hosted a forum to at the State House’s Nurse’s Hall to launch the report entitled: “Investing in Early College: Our Most Promising Pathway”  The report was funded in part with the support of the Smith Family Foundation.

As the event description noted, “Compelling new research shows early college is one of the most cost-effective strategies to prepare students for success beyond high school.”

The forum was presided over by MassINC COO Juana Matias, a former state representative from Lawrence and featured several speakers from both the legislature and the academic world.


Juana Matias

Other speakers included State Senator Barry Finegold, State Representative Liz Miranda, Jeff Riley, Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education, and Lane Glenn, President of Northern Essex Community College.

Following the Opening remarks was a panel of experts and students including Nuri Chandler Smith, Dean of Academic Support & College Pathways at Bunker Hill Community College; William Thomas, Principal of Charlestown High School; and three students: Melanie Sola from Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, Dominick Garcia from Holyoke High School, and Warren Pimentel from Salem High School.  The discussion was moderated by Matias.


Of course there is always a Lowell connection.  Lowell Public Schools was represented by LHS Head of School Marianne Busteed and Project LEARN executive director LZ Nunn as well as staff from the office of State Senator Ed Kennedy.  Kennedy also stopped by the event.

Lowell Public Schools is being considered for a $600K 3-year grant from the Smith Family Foundation to support and expand its Early College Program partnership with Middlesex Community College.


The report, available free for download on MassINC’s website,  revisits projections that Massachusetts will end the next decade with fewer college-educated workers than the current one.  Early College is noted as a cost-effective response to this challenge.

The report notes:

The first Early Colleges cropped up in the 2000s as bold experiments.
Motivated by research demonstrating that low-income students
were significantly less likely to complete college degrees than their
similarly qualified peers, these innovative schools sought to test new
strategies to help low-income, first-generation college-goers make it
into and through college. At the time, many traditional high schools
offered advanced students the chance to take a college-level course
or two by dual-enrolling at local universities and simultaneously
earning both high school and college credit. Early Colleges were
designed specifically to provide this opportunity to students who
were significantly underrepresented among dual-enrollers. Intensive
academic and social supports ensured readiness and success in
challenging college courses. Early College high schools also devised
schedules and course sequences to create greater alignment between
high schools and colleges (both in terms of calendars and curriculums),
making it possible for students to complete a substantial number of
transferable college credits for free—significantly lowering the barriers
to ultimately earning their post-secondary degree

For full coverage of the June 6th event,  please visit MassINC’s event recap.  To read the report, please check out “Investing in Early College: Our Most Promising Pathway”


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