UMass plans to triple early college slots for high schoolers around state

UMass President Martin Meehan takes part in UMass Amherst graduation exercises in 2022.

UMass President Martin Meehan takes part in UMass Amherst graduation exercises in 2022. STAFF FILE PHOTO

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 03-13-2024 3:51 PM

AMHERST — UMass plans to triple early college enrollment over the next five years, giving 2,000 high school students a head start on their college education, university President Marty Meehan said Tuesday in his annual “state of the university” message.

In his call for expanding the UMass Commonwealth Collegiate Academy (CCA), Meehan argued that access to four-year college degrees is critical to sustaining the state’s nation-leading innovation economy.

“Within the next five years, we plan to expand our early college initiatives to serve more than 2,000 high school students and broaden our early college reach to more rural areas of the state,” Meehan said.

His 10-minute video message was distributed to nearly 400,000 UMass students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters via email, and to the larger community via social media.

The early college initiative was launched in the fall of 2022, with 169 students at seven schools. CCA now has nearly 600 enrollments in 11 high schools: Brockton, Durfee (Fall River), Greater Lowell Technical, New Bedford, Revere, Taunton, Billerica, Argosy Collegiate, Dracut, Methuen, and Woburn.

UMass Amherst plans to launch its Commonwealth Collegiate Academy programs this fall.

Students at the 11 CCA high schools are projected to earn a total of 1,736 credits from UMass Dartmouth and UMass Lowell this semester. Many will also have opportunities to visit their nearby UMass campus to learn more about the college experience and financial aid opportunities.

In addition, 190 students are enrolled in early college classes offered by UMass Boston at Fenway, New Mission, and BCLA/McCormack high schools in Boston as part of a campus-led effort, with plans to expand to two more Boston schools (Margarita Muniz Academy and Tech Boston Academy) next year.

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UMass early college initiatives are funded by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, with additional support from the Smith Family Foundation.

In his message, Meehan praised the Healey-Driscoll administration and the Legislature for their support of increased financial aid for public higher education students and free community college tuition for students over age 25. He said diversifying the pathways to a four-year college degree is critical to attracting, developing, and sustaining a workforce that will keep the commonwealth’s nation-leading innovation economy strong while improving socioeconomic mobility across the state.

Earlier this year, Meehan announced that the top 10% of Massachusetts’ future community college graduates will receive a minimum of $5,000 per year above federal and private financial aid if they enroll at one of the four nationally ranked UMass campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth and Lowell.

Over the last decade, UMass has increased annual university-funded financial aid by 88% to $395 million, which has led to a reduction in average student debt and the percentage of students with any debt.

Staff Writer James Pentland can be reached at jpentland@gazettenet.com.