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Massachusetts Launches Campaign to Double Number of Low Income Students Succeeding in College

Massachusetts needs to do better to train students for future jobs

A statewide coalition of higher education officials, school district administrators, teachers, business and community leaders today launched the College Success Campaign to significantly increase the number of Massachusetts high school students graduating from two- and four-year colleges.

The launch came during the College Success Research Forum, a national research initiative sponsored by Mass Insight Education and the Nellie Mae Foundation, bringing together preeminent national researchers, advocacy organizations, policy-makers, and organizations focused on college completion.

“This is a statewide effort with local chapters to dramatically increase the number of students graduating from college in the next decade, particularly low-income students and our math and science high school stars who go on to STEM careers,” said William Guenther, Chairman and CEO of Mass Insight, which is the organizer of the College Success Campaign.

“This is all about matching talent to future jobs.  Colleges, schools, and communities are coming together to form a new compact to make Massachusetts #1 in the nation for College Success,” said Guenther.  “New data exists measuring college success rates – we need to use that data to measure the effectiveness of our schools and colleges to help our students graduate and succeed.  We need clear goals so that we can hold accountable our schools and leaders.”

The campaign is calling on the next governor to adopt specific goals for increasing college success for the state’s students and to make potential solutions part of the debate during the campaign.

Nearly half of Massachusetts public college students don’t graduate, but by 2020 nearly three quarters of the jobs in Massachusetts will require post-secondary school education, with many of these jobs requiring STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) training. The state needs to do a better job of preparing students, particularly low-income and minority students, to complete college on schedule, reducing college costs.

Graduation rates are even worse for two-year colleges – only 16 percent of students graduate within three years.  For low-income students, only 2 in 10 earn any kind of college degree.

The key goals of the campaign are:

  • Double the number of low income college graduates by 2024, from 5,000 to 10,000
  • Double the number of students graduating from college with a degree in science, technology, engineering or math

“The education our schools deliver needs to keep pace with the advanc­ing role of technology in our economy. I encourage our elected officials, business and community leaders to accept these aggressive goals to ensure the economic prosperity of Massachusetts going forward,” said Joshua Boger, founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals and one of the state’s leading STEM education advocates.

“As a leader in educating the Commonwealth’s workforce in STEM fields and in collaborating with industry and entrepreneurs, UMass Lowell understands the growing need for graduates of science, technology, engineering and math programs to fuel Massachusetts’ continued economic success. We also understand how a high-quality education can transform the lives of students in all fields of study and that we must work together to ensure more of the Commonwealth’s young people successfully complete their college degrees,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan, who participated in a College Success Research panel held at the Forum.

The other panelists were Mount Wachusett Community College President Daniel M. Asquino, Department of Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and Boston Public Schools Interim Superintendent John McDonough.

Mount Wachusett Community College has developed deep and meaningful partnerships with our local K-12 schools,” said President Daniel M. Asquino. “These partnerships are critical to giving an early college experience to students while they are in high school so that they can be successful in college, graduate and move on to meaningful careers.”

The goals of the Forum were to develop new metrics to determine the effectiveness of programs to help students prepare for and succeed in college, as well as to bring together leading education advocates to push for more support for college success initiatives. The College Success Campaign brings together several programs and organizations, including Mass Insight Education’s Advanced Placement program, Bottom Line, Breakthrough – Greater Boston, City Year, The Posse Foundation, Project GRAD and uAspire.

These programs are joined by a growing list of college presidents, school superintendents, school administrators, teachers, companies, business leaders, elected officials and community leaders who have signed onto the campaign.  The current list includes:

  • Thermo Fisher Scientific
  • Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Biogen Idec Foundation
  • State Street Corporation
  • MassMutual Financial Group
  • Melinda Boone, Superintendent, Worcester Public Schools
  • Pia Durkin, Superintendent, New Bedford Public Schools
  • Joe Mastricola, Superintendent, Peabody Public Schools
  • Jason “Jake” McCandless, Superintendent, Pittsfield Public Schools
  • John McDonough, Interim Superintendent, Boston Public Schools
  • Andre Ravenelle, Superintendent, Fitchburg Public Schools
  • Caleb Dolan, Executive Director, KIPP MA
  • Scott Given, Founder CEO, UP Education Network
  • Stig Leschly, CEO, MATCH Education
  • Owen Stearns, CEO, Excel Academy Charter Schools
  • Robert Antonucci, President, Fitchburg State University
  • Daniel Asquino, President, Mt. Wachusett Community College
  • Carole Cowan, President, Middlesex Community College
  • J. Keith Motley, Chancellor, UMass Boston
  • Joshua Boger, Founder, Vertex Pharmaceuticals
  • Richard Burnes, Founder, Charles River Ventures
  • John Davis, Former Chairman & CEO, American Saw & Manufacturing
  • Robert J. Manning, Chairman & CEO, MFS Investment Management
  • William Schawbel, Founder & CEO, The Schwabel Corporation

The College Success Campaign is aimed at building coalitions in local communities among parents, teachers, principals, superintendents, elected officials and local business leaders to call for increasing budgets to allow the expansion of such programs.

All the latest news, research and data about the College Success Campaign can be found at


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