The House doubles down on Early College expansion

The Gateway Cities Journal

The House doubles down on Early College expansion

Yesterday the House unveiled an FY 2023 budget that includes $19 million for Early College. This figure is double last year’s allotment and nearly four times FY 21 spending levels. Once again, House leadership, Ways & Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, and members of the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus are showing educators that they are 100 percent behind efforts to give students stronger pathways through college and into the workforce.

The House budget blueprint splits the $19 million Early College allotment into two buckets. About half of the funds will reimburse colleges for the increasing number of courses that they are providing to high school students free of charge. The other half covers growth capital, dollars that high schools can tap for technical assistance, professional development, and evaluation. For educators working to design and expand high-quality programs, these are must-have services.

The legislature’s unwavering commitment to Early College gives educators confidence. When they roll up their sleeves to build complicated high school-college partnerships, they can rest assured that they will see the fruits of their labor. Even more importantly, when they tell a ninth-grade recruit that putting the effort in now means chances to earn a significant number of free college credits in 11th and 12th grade, they can trust that this promise will hold two years down the road.

In a state where levels of inequality continue to spiral upward and unequal access to higher education is a root cause, committing fully to Early College expansion is the right thing to do. Research released by MassINC this week demonstrates why it is also in the best interest of taxpayers.

Our new study follows an entire cohort of students who enter Massachusetts community colleges within a few years of high school graduation. If all of these students had completed a certificate or degree, Massachusetts would have gained $165 million in net fiscal benefits. However, fewer than one-third of these students succeeded, which meant Massachusetts’ community college expenditure was no better than a break-even investment.

The analysis shows the state isn’t generating the return on investment possible because these institutions are under-resourced. Massachusetts can spend $16,000 more per associate degree completion and still realize a fiscal return. Evidence suggests Early College will produce additional graduates well below this price point.

Last year, there were just 2,500 students enrolled in Early College programs statewide. With all of the momentum and resources for expansion, next year the number could climb to as high as 8,700. Gateway City legislators, mayors, city councilors, school committee members, business leaders, and education advocates have campaigned effectively together for the funding to enable this growth. The FY 2023 budget now moves to the Senate. They must stay at it.

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