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Mass. early college program to provide 25,000 free credits statewide this year, Baker says

‘We should be doing far more with this program because it works’

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Massachusetts’ early college program, which allows high school students an opportunity to earn an associate’s degree while attaining their high school diploma, will provide 25,000 free college credits to public school students this year, Governor Charlie Baker said Friday.

Despite its success, only about 40 public high schools, out of the state’s estimated 340, participate in the early college program, said Baker. Many of the participating schools are those that primarily serve students of color, making “college not only affordable, but accessible, available and understandable to kids who in many cases come from families where no one’s ever gone to college before.”

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“I can’t tell you how much I believe in this program,” Baker said after a tour of New Heights Charter School in Brockton, where he heard from several students who participated in the early college program. “It’s people like you who make me believe that we should be doing so much more with this than we are.”

At New Heights Charter School, which is celebrating its first graduating class this spring, 46 out of 89 seniors are graduating with both high school diplomas and associate’s degrees, according to the school’s executive director Omari Walker. When the school opened in 2016, Walker said, their goal was to have 50 percent of seniors graduating with an associate’s degree.

“Our students need to be celebrated,” Walker said.

Baker lauded the highly accomplished students who are graduating with their diplomas and associate’s degrees concurrently, calling them “pioneers of the absolute best kind.”

He pleaded with them to return to Massachusetts if they leave the state to complete four-year degrees.

“I never could have gotten a high school degree and an associate’s degree at the same time. I could not have done it,” Baker said. “I didn’t have the discipline. I didn’t have the brainpower, and I certainly didn’t have the drive that you all have.”

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Baker also said he hopes their success story will encourage the state Legislature to provide more funding to enhance and expand the program.

“We should be doing far more with this program because it works,” Baker said, “and it especially serves kids in communities who deserve a better chance, a better opportunity, and an open door that can get them into college.”