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These Recent High School Grads Changed College Plans as a Result of the Pandemic

Submitted by on December 4, 2020 – 4:45 pm
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Kaylin Francoeur, a 2020 Amesbury HS grad, plans to get her associate degree from NECC and transfer

Amesbury High School 2020 graduate Kaylin Francoeur was all set to attend a four-year private college this fall, but, with the uncertainty the pandemic presented for first-year college students, she changed her plans.

Francoeur is enrolled at Northern Essex Community College, and she says it’s working out so well that she will likely continue on for an associate degree before transferring to a four-year college or university.

“I didn’t plan to go to a community college, but I have no regrets,” says Francoeur. “I don’t feel like I’m missing out. My friends who went away to college didn’t like it.”

Starting at Northern Essex has given Francoeur the opportunity to explore majors—she started in a health field and recently switched to business management—and stay safe at home.

Her goal is to build her photography business, Kaylin Francoeur Photography, which she started while she was in high school, and she believes a business degree will help her to do that.

Once she has her associate degree, she will transfer to a four-year college or university for a bachelor’s degree, and, after her experience at Northern Essex, she is looking at public universities, possibly UMass Lowell.

Francoeur’s friend, Hayden Ayotte, who was planning to study business at UMass Amherst, also decided to switch plans and start at Northern Essex this fall.

“When I heard the first semester at UMass was going to be online, I knew it would be cheaper to take courses at Northern Essex. My friends are paying twice as much,” he says.

Hayden Ayotte, a 2020 Amesbury HS grad, started at NECC this fall, with plans to transfer to UMass Amherst

Before making a commitment to Northern Essex, Ayotte talked with advisors at UMass who assured him that his Northern Essex courses would transfer in.

Ayotte plans to attend Northern Essex for one year and then transfer to UMass Amherst as a sophomore.

“I’m paying for most of my school so I wanted to make the best financial decision,” he said.

While the number of recent Amesbury High School graduates who chose to start at Northern Essex increased this fall, from 16 in the fall of 2019 to 19 this fall, the percentage of recent high school graduates who chose to start at the community college remained steady overall. Approximately 14% of the fall enrollment at Northern Essex is recent high school graduates, similar to the past three years.

“We expected to see more recent high school graduates choosing to start at a community college, like Kaylin and Hayden,” said Bill Heineman, Northern Essex vice president of academic and student affairs. “I think what happened is that many students took a gap year instead, delaying their college education.”

“Unfortunately, there is a great deal of evidence that students that interrupt their education often get permanently sidetracked or at least significantly delayed in earning a college credential.  We strongly urge recent high school grads to maintain their linkage to education, even if it means just taking a course or two while they wait for the pandemic to end,” he said.

Northern Essex is registering students now for the Winter Intersession, four-week courses running January 4 through 29, and the Spring Semester, which begins Wednesday, January 20.

Winter Intersession is offered fully online and the Spring Semester will be 90% online. The college has invested a half million dollars in transitioning courses to online delivery and all services, including advising, tutoring, career services, and more, are now delivered remotely.

For additional information on enrolling, contact Enrollment Services, or 978 556-3700.

Northern Essex Community College has campuses in both Haverhill and Lawrence. It offers approximately 60 associate degree and certificate programs as well as hundreds of noncredit courses designed for personal enrichment and career growth.  Each year, 6,000 students are enrolled in credit associate degree and certificate programs on the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses; and another 2,000 take noncredit workforce development and community education classes on campus, and at businesses and community sites across the Merrimack Valley.  For more information, visit the website at or call 978-556-3700.