Franklin rep Jeff Roy says he’ll make early college classes ‘one of my priorities’

Chris Lisinski and Michael P. Norton State House News Service

Highlighting new data showing greater academic achievement among high school students taking college courses, education experts on Wednesday called on Massachusetts to continue investing in early college programs and expand access to thousands of college courses. other students.

The first college courses available at about three dozen high schools have had a significant impact on narrowing achievement gaps and improving equitable outcomes for students, analysts found in a study released by the Baker administration. Students who have participated in the programs are enrolling in higher education at a rate 20 percentage points higher than their school and state peers, the Ministry of Higher Education said.

Enrollment was over 2,300 in 2020 and is expected to grow to 4,200 students in fiscal year 2021, and proponents want to ensure Massachusetts hits a long-term goal nearly four times higher. The participation of 16,000 students, they said, would make major strides in improving access to higher education for families who may find it unaffordable.

“By reaching 16,000 students, we would go 40% of the way to doubling the number of low-income students in this state who graduate from college,” Council on Higher Education Chairman Chris Gabrieli said during the meeting. a virtual panel. “It’s not 100%. There are a lot of other students and a lot of other means, but 40% of that goal would be a pretty big contribution.”

The initiative launched in 2018 with eight programs in low-income and high-need school districts, allowing students to take college courses and earn college credits before graduating from high school, the all at no cost to them or their families.

Representative Jeff Roy, who co-chairs the Legislature’s Higher Education Committee, told the panel on Wednesday that he would make early college “one of my priorities in the upcoming legislative session.”

“We in the Legislative Assembly are encouraged by what we’re seeing in the data, and we certainly want to build on that and deliver robust programs across the Commonwealth,” said Roy, D-Franklin.

In 2019, students earned 5,088 college credits, collectively saving at least $1 million in tuition and fees they would have incurred at a college or university, according to a presentation by policy analyst Pierre Lucien. primary and secondary education.

Achieving equity has been a key goal of the programs, and early evidence points to success on this front, according to the analysis. Two-thirds of students enrolled in the programs identify as Black or Latinx, and the majority of schools offering the classes have predominantly colored student populations.

Nearly nine out of 10 black students and more than seven out of 10 Latinx students who participated in early college courses enrolled in college within six months of graduating from high school. These participation rates were higher than those of school peers by 25 percentage points for black students and 30 percentage points for Latinx peers.

“Provided this is a snapshot of data and not yet indicative of a sustained trend, I am cautiously optimistic about these results, especially for students of color,” said Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago. “At a time when we see racial equity gaps widening, it’s encouraging to see the impact of Early College as an effective strategy to propel Black and Latino students toward college success.”

Educators whose schools offered this option also reported seeing greater qualitative benefits for students. In Chelsea, which was one of the first districts to adopt the program, former superintendent Mary Bourque noticed a difference “immediately”.

On Wednesday, state education officials issued designations to six new early college programs that are expected to begin offering classes in fall 2020: Durfee High School and Bridgewater State University; Durfee High School and Bristol Community College; Hopkins Academy and Greenfield Community College; Lynn Classical High School and Salem State University; Lynn English High School and Salem State University; and Somerville High School and Cambridge College.

There are now 37 different high schools and 19 colleges and universities that have partnered to offer early college programs.

However, some speakers said Wednesday they believe Massachusetts leaders should move faster to expand the program even further. Juana Matias, a former state representative who is now chief operating officer of MassINC, said the current rate of growth won’t reach 16,000 student participants until 2032.

“There are decades and decades of students who would excel so much if they had access to college early on,” she said.

It remains to be seen how lawmakers prioritize the program amid a budget crisis of unknown proportions.

Gabrieli said many communities have indicated they are willing to direct the new funds they hope to receive through the Student Opportunities Act of 2019 toward the start of college, but described the financing as the “biggest rate limit” to program success.


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