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Office of College, Career and Technical Education

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 Download PDF Document, 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.

Designated Early College programs in Massachusetts.

Read the Governor's press release.

To learn more about Early College, review the Designation Criteria. Download PDF Document

Early College Designation Process and Timeline — AY2021-2022

*Accelerated Designation — For Enrollment Fall 2021

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the regular Designation process for the AY2020-2021 year was paused. This process is now open for applicant programs that have been able to finalize planning despite the challenges this year has presented to partnerships.

This two-part Designation application cycle is premised on the same Designation criteria as the regular Designation process, with an accelerated timeline and some specific program eligibility requirements. Applicants should be fully prepared to recruit students this spring to participate in an Early College program at the start of Fall 2021. For applicants who are in midst of planning or forming programs, the regular Designation process will reopen this spring (see schedule at bottom of the page).

The two parts of the application, and the specific requirements to meet accelerated Designation are available here:

  1. Part A: Early College Planning Summary
  2. Part B: Early College Evidence of Implementation

Please be advised that applications that do not meet these requirements, and those outlined within the application, will be deferred to the FY2022 Designation cycle.

  • February 22, 2021Part A and Part B released
  • February 26, 2021 — Accelerated Designation information webinar to be held. Register to attend.
  • April 26, 2021Part A and Part B Accelerated Designation Surveys Due (Please note, review of the Part B Application is contingent upon approval of the submitted Part A application.)
  • June 2021 — Accelerated Designation recommendations reviewed by the Early College Joint Committee

*Please note that programs approved in the Accelerated Designation process will receive funding in FY2022 following the ECJC funding policies for currently designated programs.

FY2022 Early College Program Designation
For Program Implementation and Enrollment Fall 2022

The Commonwealth is pleased to again offer its local secondary education agencies and institutions of higher education the opportunity to obtain formal designation for Early College Programs. Designed collaboratively by the EOE, DESE, and DHE, program designation will entail a two-step process ("Part A" and "Part B"), as follows:

  • April 14, 2021 — Early College Spring Convening, including information session on applying for AY2022 Designation. To access more information and register, visit 2021 MA ECP Spring Convening Registration.

  • May 3, 2021 — Part A Posted

  • Summer, 2021 (Dates TBD) — Office hours and individualized technical assistance available

  • August 27, 2021 — Part A Applications Due

  • October 2021 — Announcement of Applicants advancing to Part B

  • December 15, 2021 — Part B Applications due

  • February 2022 — Review of Part B Applications

  • March 16, 2022 — Designation recommendations reviewed by the Early College Joint Committee

Additional Resource: NS4Ed, in partnership with the MA Early College staff, has created an online resource site for our community of practice. Anyone interested in accessing this site can request the password from Rebekah Barr at

If you are seeking additional information on Early College, please contact the Early College Program Director at

Last Updated: February 23, 2021

Contact Us

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

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


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