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MWCC, Fitchburg State University and Athol High School Partnership Achieve Early College Designation

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has granted Early College designation to Athol High School in partnership with Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) and Fitchburg State University.

Early College programs combine deep career and college exploration with the opportunity for students to simultaneously earn a high school diploma and at least 12 college credits across the high school experience. Additionally, Early College programs expose students, who might not have considered college an option, to the experience of college with significant supports along the way.

The Athol Early College Program will support students in deep career exploration in grades 9 and 10, and the opportunity to take upwards of 27 college credits by the time they graduate high school, in the pathways of health care, liberal arts and sciences, business and technology, and education.

The FY24 budget proposed by Governor Maura Healey includes $46.9 million for Early College and Innovation Pathways which constitutes a $14.4 million expansion over FY23.

“We have seen Early College help hundreds of students earn college credits, and even associate degrees, since the inception of these programs,” noted MWCC President James Vander Hooven. “We look forward to welcoming the students of Athol and Royalston to the MWCC Early College community.”

“Early College is a proven program that creates opportunities for students to pursue their educational aspirations,” Fitchburg State University President Richard S. Lapidus said. “This expansion will build on that strong foundation and open doors for students in Athol and Royalston.”

“We are proud to receive this designation and excited for the opportunities it presents for our students,” added Athol High School Principal, David King.

Early College programs offered in partnership with MWCC and Fitchburg State University started in 2019 with the designation of programs for Gardner High School, Gardner Academy for Learning and Technology, Leominster High School, Leominster Center for Excellence and Leominster Center for Technical Education Innovation, Fitchburg High School, the Sizer School, and Narragansett Regional High School.

Athol High School Early College Program 
Mount Wachusett Community College / Fitchburg State University
Joint Vision Statement

For more than five years, Athol High School (AHS) and Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) have been partnered to bring dual enrollment to Athol and Royalston students. This early college program will advance work on the foundation that currently exists with dual enrollment to also leverage the partnership of Fitchburg State University (FSU) and establish a robust and deeply meaningful early college program.

Together, we aspire to provide every single Athol High School student with the opportunity to participate in an early college program that integrates deep career exploration, college preparation, job shadowing and internship opportunities, and the completion of at least 12 college credits – with most students attaining upwards of 27 credits upon completion.

AHS students have urged the administration for an early college program. Over the last few years, as we ramped up dual enrollment to better meet the needs of Athol and Royalston students, it has become an expectation by students that they have a continued ability to attain college credits, and that early college become an option for them. This Early College Designation will help to diversify the types of educational offerings available to students in Athol and Royalston, helping to ensure greater equity in an area of the state that experiences a significant number of struggles, including low educational attainment rates, high unemployment rates, and high poverty rates.