UMass gets $330,000 to expand free early college program

The University of Massachusetts has received a $330,000 grant to launch a pilot program that will eventually give thousands of high school students the chance to save money on their college education by providing a free one-year head start on earning a degree, officials said Wednesday.

The grant from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation will support the university's Commonwealth Collegiate Academy, designed to increase college opportunities among first-generation, low-income students, as well as students of color.

Students participating in the program, which builds on existing early college efforts, will be able to complete one year of UMass courses while simultaneously satisfying high school graduation requirements.

The program is projected to eventually involve as many as 25,000 students, officials said.

“Keeping higher education opportunity affordable and accessible requires new and innovative strategies,” UMass President Marty Meehan said in a statement. “With the Commonwealth Collegiate Academy, we want to build on existing partnerships and build new ones to lower the barriers that are preventing too many young people from achieving their college aspirations.”

Students in the program will receive lectures from UMass instructors delivered virtually during the school day and will be supported by teams of high school instructors who will provide labs, discussion sections and other face-to-face interactions.

The grant will support partnership building, training, and outreach activity with UMass campuses and partner high schools. Additional grants will be sought to benefit 500 students in the South Coast and Merrimack Valley.

The first phase of the pilot will include UMass Dartmouth and UMass Lowell, with UMass Amherst and UMass Boston joining at a later date.

“The creation of the Commonwealth Collegiate Academy is consistent with the university’s mission of providing broad access to the life-changing benefits provided by a college degree,” said Katherine Newman, the UMass system's chancellor for academic programs.


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