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Updated: January 9, 2023 viewpoint

Viewpoint: Early college boosts the workforce

Today, 80% of good-paying jobs require a postsecondary education, and differences in educational attainment have a profound impact on students’ future earnings. Median earnings are 20% higher for associate degree holders and 67% higher for bachelor’s degree holders than for high school graduates. In Worcester, only 48% of 2020-21 high school graduates enrolled in a two- or four-year college. Only 21% of Worcester Public Schools graduates earn a college degree within six years of graduation, and completion rates are lower for underrepresented student groups. 

Karen Pelletier

Fortunately, we have a proven, evidence-based solution for increasing college access and completion: early college. Early college programs increase college success by embedding dual enrollment courses in a program structure including rigorous academic preparation and support. Enrolled students benefit from both high school and college advisors and learn skills like time management, working under deadlines, and navigating campus resources. An evaluation by the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shows early college is creating a 15 percentage-point increase in immediate college enrollment and a 16 percentage-point increase in college persistence. 

Erika Giampietro

Worcester is the only large district in Massachusetts to offer early college across all high schools. The city’s schools boast 18% of the state’s total early college enrollment, and with continued investments, can lead the state into the next phase of early college. Worcester was awarded two grants from the state to expand its programming: One to build a wall-to-wall early college program at Claremont Academy, and the other to support Worcester in building early college participation to 25% of total high school enrollment. This goal could meaningfully improve the college success landscape. To build on the quality of its programming, Worcester should increase the number of credits students can earn from 12 to 30, a full year of college. By ensuring these 30 credits are transferable and strategically sequenced, Worcester can drastically reduce the cost and time to degree completion for students. 

Jennifer Davis-Carey

The effectiveness of early college is clear. It is one proven approach to reducing college costs, promoting equity, and increasing college persistence and completion rates for the students who will power our future workforce. Worcester should seize the moment and forge this path to improve the workforce development pipeline.

Karen Pelletier is Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce executive VP. Erika Giampietro is The MA Alliance for Early College executive director. Jennifer Davis-Carey is Worcester Education Collaborative executive director.

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