Massachusetts State Profile

Massachusetts Alliance for Early College (MA4EC)
Boston, MA

Lawrence Public Schools
Lawrence, MA

Lynn Public Schools
Lynn, Massachusetts

Massachusetts Board of Higher Education
Boston, MA

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education
Boston, MA

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Malden, MA

Massachusetts Department of Higher Education
Boston, MA

North Shore Community College
Danvers, MA

Northern Essex Community College
Haverhill, MA

Salem Public Schools
Salem, MA

Smith Family Foundation
Newton, MA

Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP)
Springfield, MA

Springfield Technical Community College
Springfield, MA

Educational and Workforce Landscape

Secondary K–12

Governed by:

  • Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Executive Office of Education

Public school enrollment K–12: 882,863 (2023–24) (Source)

Public school enrollment 9–12: 289,737 (2023–24) (Source)

School Districts: 399 (Source)

Graduation rate: 90.1% (2022) (Source)

CTE Participation rate: 25.4% (2023-24), includes percentage of students in CTE programs, Early College, and Innovation Pathways by grade, including grades 9–12 and special education beyond grade 12 (Source)

CTE graduation rate: 95.93% for CTE concentrators (2020-21) (Perkins CAR data)


Governed by:

  • Massachusetts Department of Higher Education
  • Executive Office of Education

Enrollment/Completion Data:

  • 152,739 undergraduates enrolled at Massachusetts public colleges and universities as of Fall 2023. (Source)
  • College-going rate: 60.4% in 2021 (Source)

Number by Type of Schools

  • 2-year Community College: 15
  • 4-year Public University: 14
  • 4-year Private University: 70 (Source)
  • 2-year Technical College: not tracked


Workforce Agency:

  • Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development
  • Massachusetts Workforce Development Board

Top Industries/Jobs:

  • Aerospace, Defense, Robotics
  • Information Technologies
  • Financial Services
  • Life Sciences
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Clean, Green & Blue Technologies

(According to MassEcon)

Job Openings to Learner Ratio: In July 2023, Massachusetts had 242,000 job openings, for a job opening rate of 6.05%. The ratio of unemployed persons per job opening was 0.4. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Points of Interest

Connecting Activities (CA) is a statewide network that is led by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and organized through sixteen MassHire Workforce Boards. For over 20 years, they have supported work-based learning and other career development education activities. During fiscal year 2021, 7,294 students participated in work-based learning experiences through Connecting Activities, and 2,271 employer sites hosted work-based learning experiences, with some even paying wages for placements with work-based learning plans and/or classroom instruction.

The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, in partnership with the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, leads the Early College Initiative. The Initiative’s purpose is to create and maintain partnerships connecting our state’s districts and high schools with our state’s colleges in order to give thousands of Massachusetts students, especially first-generation college-goers, access to college completion and career success. (Source)

New research shows that Early College doubles the odds of a student immediately enrolling and then persisting to a second year of college. Massachusetts students who persist into a second year are seven (7) times more likely to complete than those with an interruption in postsecondary enrollment. These increases are consistent across race, income levels, and prior academic achievement (measured by 8th grade MCAS scores). Evaluation shows that the largest effect sizes in college enrollment are happening among students who were not meeting or partially meeting expectations on their 8th grade ELA MCAS.

Sources: MassINC analysis of Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data, January 2023 Figures contained in slides presented at the Early College Joint Committee Meeting, February 18, 2021.

The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) is an active and vocal champion of high quality college and career pathways for students that brings an informed and broad perspective of employers and the workforce. Three of the state’s largest and most influential statewide employer organizations have seats on MBAE’s board, and their business affiliates include 38 chambers of commerce and trade associations, representing more than 31,000 employers.

College & Career Pathways Successes


Massachusetts has five defined and emerging pathways that have made impressive growth and impact in a short period of time: Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, Early College, Innovation Career Pathways, Career Connections and STEM TECH Career Academies.

High Quality College and Career Pathways Initiative

This initiative, launched in 2017, serves as an overarching strategy for significantly expanding student access. This added Early College and Innovation Pathways (two types of pathways) to the existing CTE offerings and Career Connections. Designated early college programs blend elements of high school and college for students, while designated Innovation Career Pathways give students coursework and experience in a specific high-demand industry, such as information technology, engineering, healthcare, life sciences and advanced manufacturing. These Pathways programs are required to offer 100 hours of career immersion in either an internship or capstone class. The Early College and Innovation Pathways are anchored in give guiding principles:

  • Equitable Access
  • Guided Academic Pathways
  • Enhanced Student Support
  • Connection to Career
  • Effective Partnership

In 2021, then-Governor Baker also introduced STEM TECH Career Academies, which further expanded available pathways programs for students.

Massachusetts Early College Initiative

In a few short years, Massachusetts has laid a strong foundation for Early College success and scale. Early College allows high school students to take college classes strategically-sequenced along career pathways that count simultaneously toward high school and college completion during their regular high school day, at no cost to the student. Students also receive enhanced guidance and academic support. Research has shown that Early College in Massachusetts procure significant gains in college matriculation and persistence.

Since 2017, the Early College Joint Committee has approved 53 designated Early College programs across 61 high schools and 28 higher education institutions. Students have access to designated Early College in 70% of Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities and 6 out of 7 WIOA regions. (Source)

This work is also supported by the Massachusetts Alliance for Early College, which is a broad and diverse coalition of over 120 members, representing education, business, equity, civic, and philanthropic leaders with a common goal to increase college and career success for students in the state.

New Skills Ready Network

Boston has been a site in the New Skills Ready Network, launched by JPMorgan Chase & Co., since 2020. The initiative aims to develop partnerships between local school systems, higher education, employers, and government entities to develop pathways and policy recommendations that give underserved students access to higher education and real-world work experiences that lead to high-wage, in-demand jobs. As a result of Boston’s involvement in the network, Massachusetts has increased state alignment, expanded pathways to schools that previously did not have any, and increased the number of students participating in and completing aligned pathways and work-based learning, as well as earning industry-recognized credentials.

Steps the State (or Local Districts) has Taken

Capacity, Commitment, and Conditions

Across the state, there is burgeoning interest and commitment from K12, higher education, and employer partners to significantly scale early college and career opportunities. Coalitions across sectors have come together in support of this work, such as through the Massachusetts Alliance for Early College and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education. There is mutual interest to refine and deepen pathway offerings across local and state leaders to meet the growing demand from students and employers alike.

State Funding

Governor Healey’s first proposed state budget included $47 million towards early college and career pathways, representing a $14.4 million increase.

Goals and Priorities for Launch

Through the Launch Initiative, Massachusetts plans to refine and deepen the next generation of integrated college and career programs, building on the successful foundation in Massachusetts to impact more students with high-impact outcomes. Massachusetts has an opportunity to build on the existing flourishing programs and align and leverage the components of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, Early College, Innovation Career Pathways, Career Connections, and STEM TECH Career Academies.

Massachusetts’ goal is to collaborate and support district and higher education leaders to develop integrated, robust, and innovative early college and career programs that can serve as a model for the system.

Local District Profiles

Lynn Public Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

  • 15,556 students (71% Hispanic, 7% African American, 20% English Language Learners, 52% Students with Disabilities, and 70% Low Income)
  • 27 schools
  • Suburban, large

Source: NCES

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

34% of Lynn High School students are estimated to be in a current pathway program.

North Shore Community College has set the bold goal of eliminating equity gaps in student academic outcomes by race/ethnicity in the next five years and Early College and Career Pathways are a crucial strategy to meet that goal as well as address significant labor shortages in the Commonwealth.

Dr. William Heineman,
Pres., North Shore Community College

Springfield Public Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

  • 23,873 students (70% Hispanic, 18% African American, 17% English Language Learners, 27% students with disabilities, and 85% low income)
  • 66 schools
  • City, midsize

Source: DESE profile

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

The Springfield Empowerment Zone offers 4 early college high schools that provide all students the opportunity to earn 3–12 college credits per semester, beginning in their freshman year. Students take classes with high school peers and transition onto college campuses when ready.

The Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership is committed to early college and career pathways programs as they offer the most predictable, most durable, and most efficient path to a living, sustainable wage for our students. We believe that realizing strong longitudinal life outcomes for our students — life outcomes which are best developed, nurtured and achieved through early college and career pathways — is quite simply the purpose of K–12 education.

Matthew Brunell,
Co-Executive Director, Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership

Salem Public Schools

Urbanacity (enrollment, geography, demographics):

  • 3,752 students (45% Hispanic, 7% African American, 7% English Language Learners, 26% Students with Disabilities, and 44% Low-Income)
  • 11 schools
  • Suburban, large

Source: NCES

Defining characteristics/points of interest:

An estimated 78% of high school students currently participate in a pathway program.

Early college is a game changer for so many first-generation college-going students and students of color in our district. We are making a difference in Massachusetts and are committed to learning more to expand impact.

Dr. Stephen Zrike,
Superintendent of Salem Public Schools

Reference Links and More Information

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