College credit options are expanded at Lowell High

By Elizabeth Dobbins |

August 23, 2019

LOWELL » New program funding will give students at Lowell High School more opportunities to rack up college credits before graduation, according to school administrators. During a meeting Wednesday night, The Lowell School Committee unanimously supported the creation of two grant-funded positions to support and market the Early College program. The program is a collaboration between the high school, Project LEARN and Middlesex Community College with $600,000 of funding over three years from the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation. It expands on the high school’s existing dual enrollment program with Middlesex Community College, according to Lowell Chief Academic Officer Robin Desmond.

Currently, students can receive college credits for select classes offered at the high school. Among other changes, the program aims to increase enrollment in these dual credit courses over the next five years. The courses are free to students, Desmond said. This school year, the program hopes to enroll 300 juniors and seniors, according to a memo presented to the School Committee.

“By 2023/2024 hopefully we will be working with at least 1,000 students,” Desmond said. Desmond said while students have enrolled in dual credit courses in past years, they were not required to apply to the program making total enrollment number that are difficult to track. The expanded program will have an application process. Desmond said more details will be announced in a future press release.

Among the changes, the initiative will allow students in coming years to attend some dual credit classes at Middlesex Community College, according to administrators. Currently, these classes are only offered at the high school. Employees in the newly created positions will be tasked with marketing the program to families and supporting incoming freshmen interested in entering the program.

Starting this year, ninth grades can pursue a one-credit career explorations course. Information from this pilot will be used to inform future implementation of the program, according to a memo. The school will also pilot allowing a late start time for students “extending their school day” by undertaking coursework through Middlesex Community College. Over their high school career, students can receive twelve or more college credits before graduations, according to a memo.

The district also plans to track metrics like retention rate, the total amount of credits awarded to students, the course pass rate and college enrollment after graduation. According to the memo, the expansion is meant to “ bridge the opportunity grant,” particularly for disadvantaged or underrepresented families, and allow students to make progress toward a two-year degree, or complete a credit certification, by high school graduation. Superintendent Joel Boyd called the expansion an “exciting opportunity.”

The Boston-based Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation has provided grants for similar partnerships between high schools and community colleges in Lawrence, Lynn, Framingham, Chelsea and other locations.