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NECC/Whittier Early College Program Receives State Approval

Submitted by on March 22, 2021 – 8:33 pm

These Whittier Tech students were recognized in the spring of 2019 for participating in the NECC Early College Program.

HAVERHILL – Whittier Tech and Northern Essex Community College are proud to announce that their partnership has been given official designation as a Massachusetts Early College Program, which will allow Whitter students to earn college credits at no cost.

A statewide priority, the Massachusetts Early College Initiative was created in 2018 to give local students, especially first-generation college-goers, access to college completion and career success.

Northern Essex currently has state designated Early College partnerships with Haverhill and Lawrence high schools, and the Whittier designation will take effect in the fall of 2021.

Whittier students have been taking Northern Essex Early College courses since 2018, and there are currently 70 students enrolled in the program. With this new designation from the state and the benefit of free tuition, it’s anticipated that the number of students involved will increase significantly.

Early College courses count toward both a student’s high school graduation requirements and their future college degree. Most students spend the morning at their high school and travel to the college campus by bus for afternoon college-level courses.

While there is no limit to the number of courses a student can take, up to 12 credits—equivalent to one semester—is free.

“We truly value our partnership with Northern Essex Community College,” Whittier Superintendent Maureen Lynch said. “Our students are able to develop important skills that will serve them through life, and able to reduce the cost of a college degree.”

Marcy Yeager, executive director of NECC’s PK12 Partnerships, which administers the Early College program, says, “it’s not double the work; it’s double the credit. We are moving them toward degree completion.”

Since it launched in 2018, the Massachusetts Early College Initiative has seen enormous growth, with 4,200 students from 37 high schools projected to be enrolled by fiscal year 2021. These students will earn an estimated 25,000 college credits and realize savings of $5.4 million dollars in tuition and fees.

Northern Essex’s partnerships have also seen tremendous growth. There were 548 students enrolled in Early College Programs in the fall of 2020, a 37% increase over the fall of 2019 when 398 students were enrolled.

Department of Elementary and Secondary Education data shows that high school graduates who participated in Early College programs are enrolling in college at a rate that is 20% higher than their high school peers. Additionally, their FAFSA completion rates are 25% higher than school peers.

The program also benefits underserved communities, with two-thirds of students enrolled in Early College programs identifying as Black or Latino. And because the Early College program also includes “pathways’ that mimic college majors, including business, criminal justice, healthcare, and education, students can experience the rigors and culture of college while also getting a taste of their major.

In addition to its state designated partnerships, Northern Essex also offers its Early College Program to students from 25 other local high schools. These students can earn credits at a 50% discount.

If you are interested in learning more about Early College opportunities at NECC, contact If you are interested in the Whittier program, contact Tia Gerber, Whittier director of community partnerships at or 978 373-4101, ext. 327.

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.