State Awards Early College Grants to Merrimack College and a UMass Lowell Program at Methuen High

Education Secretary James A. Peyser.

Merrimack College and a UMass Lowell program targeting Methuen High School are among the beneficiaries of state grants for new early college pilots aimed at significantly increasing the number of underrepresented students taking college courses while still in high school.

The state Executive Office of Education said Monday Merrimack College is receiving $120,000, while a UMass Lowell partnership with Methuen is sharing $940,000 that is being split among seven high school partners and the UMass system.

“These grants will accelerate innovation, build capacity and strengthen quality in early college programs across Massachusetts,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. “UMass is grateful for the confidence that the Baker-Polito Administration is showing in our initiatives on the South Coast and in the Merrimack Valley. With our colleagues at UMass Dartmouth and UMass Lowell, we look forward to working with our partner high schools to open new higher education pathways for their students.”

The University of Massachusetts system is launching its first early college program with high schools surrounding its Dartmouth and Lowell campuses. Known as Commonwealth Collegiate Academy, UMass will offer live course instruction delivered remotely by its faculty to students in multiple high schools during the school day. High school instructors will partner with their UMass colleagues to provide face-to-face support for labs, discussion sections and team-based projects.

“Early College programs provide students with an invaluable learning experience that supports their successful future in and out of the classroom,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “We are pleased that UMass will now be among the higher education institution partners, and we are grateful for their commitment to expanding access to college courses for high school students across the Commonwealth.”

Education Secretary James A. Peyser said “All students, and particularly those who have been historically underrepresented in higher education, deserve the opportunity to prepare for postsecondary education. These early college models will help more students have this opportunity.”

Early College enables high school students to take college courses and earn credits at no cost before they graduate high school. The state said students who participate in Early College programs enroll in college at significantly higher rates than their high school peers, and it boosts college completion rates for low-income, minority and first-generation college students. In 2019, approximately 76% of Early College students enrolled in college after graduation compared to 55% of their peers who did not participate in Early College.

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