“Early College Day at the State House” Pushes for Program Expansion
Above, Framingham State, a campus with which educators in Milford have partnered.
Early College students, K12 and higher education administrators and program directors and other community leaders visited the State House last week to thank the Legislature for its leadership and investment in Massachusetts’ Early College Initiative, including Franklin's State Rep. Jeff Roy. Advocates crowded into the packed House Members Lounge to report back to legislators on the impact of their investment and advocate for an increase in Early College funding in FY24 and the recently-refiled “An Act Relative to College in High Schools.” After the briefing, students and educators visited legislative offices to talk about their experiences and the benefits of their local programs.
Early College is a strategy for increasing college success rates, and Massachusetts has built a strong foundation for rapid expansion of the program. Nine new Early College programs were granted designation status at the March 15 Early College Joint Committee meeting, bringing the state’s total to 48 designated programs serving more than 6,000 students across 58 high schools and 27 colleges. The growth reflects widespread demand in communities and continued spending from the state’s legislature, which authorized $19 million in Early College funding for school year 2022-23. Data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education indicates that Early College is producing 14 percentage-point increases in immediate college enrollment and 2nd year persistence, increases which are consistent across race, income levels, and across prior academic performance as measured by 8th grade MCAS.
This year, the Massachusetts Alliance for Early College submitted a letter to the Healey administration and the Legislature including more than 215 signatures from advocates across the Commonwealth in support of $27.6 million in funding for school year 2023-24. Increased investment in the initiative would meet student and community demand and support the expansion of existing programs, as well as the approval and launch of new programs. Early forecasts suggest that Massachusetts could see an increase in Early College enrollment to nearly 8,000 students by the start of school year 2023-24.
As the demand for postsecondary credentials in the labor market continues to grow, supporters of Early College are focused on the program’s impact on student success and its potential to build strong, durable workforce pipelines to the jobs of tomorrow. “As the first corporate supporter of Early College in Massachusetts, State Street Foundation understands the importance of investing in education to help build the workforce of the future. Early College is making a true difference for students by closing equity gaps in post-secondary education completion and putting young people on a path to college and career success. We look forward to continuing our support for Early College and encourage others to join us in this impactful initiative that benefits students and communities across the commonwealth,” said Joan Christel, President of the State Street Foundation.
The legislative briefing also included an overview of “An Act Relative to College in High Schools”. This legislation, which is grounded in the belief that expanding the share of the workforce with a postsecondary education is a critical economic and strategic priority, encourages the development of administrative, programmatic, and funding structures to support urgent expansion of College in High School programs, including Early College. The chief sponsors of the bill include longstanding Early College supporters Representatives Jeffrey Roy and Kate Lipper-Garabedian, who gave remarks at the briefing, as well as Senator Brendan Crighton.
The event was sponsored by a coalition of organizations including the Massachusetts Alliance for Early College, Latinos for Education, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, MassINC, the State Street Foundation, the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, the Education Trust, and the Worcester Education Collaborative. Students and staff from more than 20 programs statewide joined to share impact stories with legislators throughout the building. "Today's show of support is a testament to the strength and potential of Early College. We have a program here that works, deep student and family demand, committed community and school leadership, and a legislature that has been out in front making this happen. What we do now and going forward is make or break in order to bring this successful pilot to scale," Massachusetts Alliance for Early College Executive Director Erika Giampietro said in a statement about the celebratory event.
To date, Franklin has not been among the Early College Designated Programs, but nearby Milford is, having joined in April 2019. Through the program the town partners with both Framingham State University and Massachusetts Bay Community College.