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Office of College, Career and Technical Education

Massachusetts High Quality College and Career Pathways Initiative

In 2017, the Commonwealth launched a High Quality College and Career Pathways initiative to serve as an overarching strategy for significantly expanding student access to high-quality career pathways.

In addition to Chapter 74, there are two new types of pathways for this effort: Early College and Innovation. While more specific sets of characteristics define each pathway, both are anchored in the five guiding principles defined in the Massachusetts Early College Designation — Preliminary Outline of Key Elements: equitable access, guided academic pathways, enhanced student support, connection to career, and effective partnerships.

Early College

Early college programs are designed to blend elements of high school and college to provide students with the opportunity to experience and complete college level academic coursework on a clearly articulated pathway and simultaneously gain exposure to a variety of career opportunities. Early college programs also reduce the time and expense of earning a college credential while increasing the likelihood of completion.

In 2016, the Boards of Higher Education and Elementary and Secondary Education looked at whether the state could devise an early college strategy. They commissioned a study, done by Parthenon-EY Education Practice, to look at what exists in Massachusetts and the possibility of expanding successful models. The report found early college is a promising model that narrows educational opportunity gaps, and existing programs were a powerful base from which to build a broader statewide early college initiative. Following these findings in January 2017, the boards of Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education jointly launched an initiative intended to support the expansion of Early College and establish an Early College designation. The boards also created an Early College Joint Committee (ECJC), charged with developing the Early College Designation Process for the Commonwealth.

Download PDF Document
Designation Criteria
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Organizations that have received the Early College designation

Early College Pathway Designation Process and Timeline AY2019-2020

for Fall 2020 Enrollment

The Commonwealth is again offering its local education agencies and institutions of higher education the opportunity to obtain formal designation for Early College Pathways.

In order to determine whether your institution and partner are ready to apply for the designation process, please refer to the Readiness Checklist Download Word Document. If you can answer yes to the majority of questions you should strongly consider applying for Part A of the designation application. This checklist will also be included in the Appendices of the Part A application as it can be helpful to making sure you have addressed the Early College designation criteria.

Designed collaboratively by the EOE, DESE, and DHE, the Early College pathway designation will entail a two-step process (Part A approval allows applicants to continue to Part B), as follows:

  • July 8, 2019 — Early College Part A Application Posted
    • Applications must be submitted electronically via SurveyGizmo

  • July 15, 2019 — Early College Planning Grant opportunity
    • Applications must be submitted electronically, via SurveyGizmo.

  • August 2019 — Information Sessions
    • Friday, Aug.2 , 11 am – 12 pm — Office Hours (Webinar)
    • Thursday, Aug.15 , 1 – 2 pm — Office Hours (Webinar)

  • September 3, 2019 — Competitive Planning Grant Applications due

  • September — Technical assistance for Part A applicants

  • September 19, 2019 — Early College Statewide Convening

  • October 15, 2019Part A Designation Application due

  • Mid-October/November 2019 — Part A Designation Application review by staff

  • DecemberPart A Designation Applications approved
    • Being approved for Part A of the Designation will allow the applicant to complete Part B of the Designation Application

  • December/January 2019 — Staff conduct Part B Designation information sessions, provide technical assistance

  • February 14Part B Designation Application due

  • February/March 2020 — Part B Designation Application review by staff, interviews

  • April 2020 — Final Designation Application summaries and recommendations are reviewed by the Early College Joint Committee

Please check this page regularly for updates.

If you are seeking additional information on Early College, please email

Innovation Pathways

Innovation Pathways are designed to give students coursework and experience in a specific high-demand industry, such as information technology, engineering, healthcare, life sciences and advanced manufacturing.

Innovation Pathways are designed to create strong partnerships with employers in order to expose students to career options and help them develop knowledge and skills related to their chosen field of study before they graduate high school.

Organizations that have received the Innovation Pathways designation.

To learn more about Innovation Pathways, review the Innovation Pathway Criteria Download Word Document.

Presentation on Innovation Pathway Designation Process and Criteria Download PowerPoint File

Please check this page regularly for updates. If you are seeking additional information on the designation process, please email .

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.