Dartmouth and Lowell campuses targeted for UMass early college program

Colin A. Young

BOSTON — By the end of the 2020s, about half of all high school students could be enrolled in some type of academic, early-career, or vocational/technical program, which, according to Education Secretary James Peyser, ” has the potential to truly transform what the high school experience is like” in Massachusetts.

Among those at the forefront of expanding early college opportunities are the University of Massachusetts, which is seeking a state grant to support a pilot project of its early college program, the Commonwealth Collegiate Academy at the University of Massachusetts. Officials hope to launch the pilot project in the fall with the Dartmouth and Lowell campuses spearheading the effort by partnering with local high schools.

UMass President Marty Meehan announced Wednesday that the system has received a $330,000 grant from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation for partnership building, training, and outreach related to the pilot program, and UMass plans to seek a $1.3 million share of the state’s early college program. funding to cover the cost of attendance for 500 students from the Merrimack Valley and South Coast.

Eventually, the Amherst and Boston campuses will be added to the program, and UMass officials said they expect full enrollment to grow to about 25,000 students statewide.

Katherine Newman, UMass system chancellor for academic programs and senior vice president for economic development, detailed the plan for Commonwealth Collegiate Academy during a Wednesday morning meeting of the board’s Academic Affairs and Economic Development Committee. administration of UMass.

The idea is to give high school students — and especially those who would be the first generation in their families to attend college, students from low-income backgrounds, and students of color — a “free advance one year on obtaining a university degree”. degree,” UMass said.

“The goal is to see early students complete 30 credits that simultaneously satisfy high school graduation requirements and college credits,” Newman said.

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Under this program, 11th and 12th graders could take two courses each college semester and attend an on-campus residential summer program to take two more courses.

“Our approach will be to lecture live to students in their own high school classrooms during the school day provided by our UMass faculty. Because high school students need regular face-to-face presence, we will work as a team with our high school teacher counterparts who will provide discussion sections, labs and project support,” Newman said. “This will require constant coordination and true collaboration across institutional boundaries, which has never been tried before, but we think it will be a great opportunity for a stronger bridge.”

She added: “To our knowledge, no other state has attempted to do this on a large scale like we are trying to do.”

The program will be organized into “intentional pathways” designed to encourage high school students to pursue careers in in-demand fields like STEM, Newman said, and the courses will be “fundamentally identical to the courses we offer on campus.”

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education Executive Director Ed Lambert said, “Providing high-quality content in topical accelerated career paths is something business leaders across the state strongly support. kind of creativity and partnership.”

There are currently 22 higher education institutions that partner with 42 high schools in Massachusetts to serve about 4,500 first-time students, UMass said, but more than 80% of all high school students in Massachusetts lack access. to an approved undergraduate degree program.

“Massachusetts actually has a very long way to go to catch up with the rest of the country in scaling up early college…we’re actually at the bottom of the well in terms of the number of participants,” Newman said.

Early university programs increasingly attracted the attention of government officials and business leaders. In February, more than 80 organizations, including the Mass. Business Alliance for Education, MassINC, Latinos for Education, State Universities Council of Presidents, Mass. Association of Community Colleges, Mass. Association of School Superintendents and several school districts formed the Massachusetts Alliance for Early College with the goal of increasing enrollment in early college programs from 4,500 to 45,000 in five years.

Governor Charlie Baker’s $48.5 billion spending plan for fiscal year 2023 recommends funding early college programs at $18 million, up from the $11 million allocated for that fiscal year. The Baker administration announced on Monday that eight more high schools have been designated to offer early college programs and that it expects about 8,700 students to be enrolled in the programs by the 2024-2025 school year. .

“Our goal here, as a state policy, is to have 10-15% of all high school students in early college programs, in addition to another 10-15% of all high school students. in career path programs in addition to the 25% of college students, high school students, who are in vocational/technical programs,” Peyser said at the UMass Trustee Committee meeting on Wednesday. “When you put it all together, that in about five to six years could mean that half of all high school students are in one of these types of structured pathway programs, including some high schools that may have all of their students enrolled in these types of courses.

Peyser added, “The implication of this is that it has the potential to really transform what the high school experience is and it has an impact far beyond any specific or individual partnership that we are talking about here; really has a huge leverage effect on potential. So having UMass leading this movement is really, really important.

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