In many high-wage industries, a high school degree no longer prepares students to enter the workforce. By 2020, labor market analysts predict that 65 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education or training. Yet too many students are graduating from Massachusetts high schools underprepared for the rigors of higher education. Twenty-six percent of Massachusetts public school students require developmental—or remedial—courses when enrolling in the state’s public colleges and universities. Concerns about affordability or their ability to succeed in college coursework cause many students to drop out or not enroll in college at all.
Instead of remediation, educators across the nation now recognize the value of exposing high schools students to college-level learning. One promising approach, known as early college, allows students to take college courses while still in high school and earn credit for both. Giving high school students an actual college experience equips them the habits of mind that lead to postsecondary success, and earning credits that count toward a degree makes college more affordable.
Though Massachusetts schools lead the nation in many areas, we are falling behind states like Texas and North Carolina in scaling early college. But progress is being made. In 2016, Massachusetts established an early college designation process to expand access to these programs in schools across the Commonwealth.
To help more schools launch early college programs, we took a look at successful examples from across the state and nation and developed a hands-on guide to getting started. This blueprint is intended to help high school and college partners design and implement effective programs through research-based best practices and lessons learned from existing early college programs. The blueprint breaks the process down into four steps: preparing, designing, implementing, and evolving.
We hope this blueprint will help more high schools and institutions of higher education team up to launch early college programs and ultimately prepare students across the state for success in college, career, and life.