UMass gets $330,000 to expand free early college program

The University of Massachusetts has received a $330,000 grant to launch a pilot program that will eventually give thousands of high school students the opportunity to save money on their college education by offering a free cash advance. a year away from graduation, officials said Wednesday.

The grant from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation will support the university’s Commonwealth Collegiate Academy, designed to increase college opportunities among low-income first-generation students, as well as students of color.

Students participating in the program, which builds on existing efforts at early colleges, will be able to complete a year of UMass coursework while simultaneously meeting high school graduation requirements.

The program is expected to eventually involve up to 25,000 students, officials said.

“Keeping higher education opportunities affordable and accessible requires new and innovative strategies,” UMass President Marty Meehan said in a statement. “With Commonwealth Collegiate Academy, we want to build on existing partnerships and create new ones to reduce the barriers that prevent too many young people from achieving their college aspirations.”

Students in the program will receive lectures from UMass instructors delivered virtually during the school day and will be supported by teams of high school instructors who will provide labs, discussion sections, and other face-to-face interactions.

The grant will support partnership building, training, and outreach activities with UMass campuses and partner high schools. Additional grants will be sought to benefit 500 South Coast and Merrimack Valley students.

The first phase of the pilot will include UMass Dartmouth and UMass Lowell, with UMass Amherst and UMass Boston joining at a later date.

“The establishment of the Commonwealth Collegiate Academy is consistent with the university’s mission to provide broad access to the life-changing benefits provided by a college degree,” said Katherine Newman, UMass System Chancellor for Academic Programs.

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