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Getting a Jump -- and Savings -- on College

Hillie Students Earn 700 College Credits at NECC

25 Haverhill High students who have earned a total of more than 700 college credits from Northern Essex Community College Photo by Jen Meli/Haverhill Gazette
25 Haverhill High students have earned a total of more than 700 college credits from Northern Essex Community College.

Haverhill Gazette
By Mike LaBella

When Haverhill High School senior Isabella Callahan enrolls in UMass Lowell’s honors engineering program this fall, she will take 40 Northern Essex Community College credits with her.

Callahan is one of 28 Haverhill High seniors who enrolled in an Early College Program. It's a partnership between NECC and area high schools that lets students complete general education college courses and receive both high school and college credit. 

A recognition ceremony honoring the students was held recently in the Hartleb Technology Center on the college's Haverhill campus.

The 28 students earned a total of 721 college credits, according to Noemi Custodia-Lora, director of NECC's Lawrence campus and community relations. Those credits equal more than $1 million in private school tuition.

“That’s a lot of money to save,” she said.

The high school pays for books and fees, while students pay for the classes at a discounted price. 

Haverhill High Principal Elizabeth Kitsos praised the teens, saying they are a strong group of “high achieving” students. 

"I’m so incredibly proud of each and every one of these students for their commitment to the program," said Kitsos, who credited NECC President Lane Glenn with being a driving force behind the Early College Program.

Glenn said he asked several of the Early College students if they had a career direction.

“The range of answers was fascinating,” he said. “From Brian who wants to study political science, to Jonathan and Ben who want to earn marketing degrees… to John who wants to study physics and has already picked out his dorm room at UMass Lowell… and what about Isabella Callahan who has 40 credits? Wow. Just wow.”

Haverhill School Superintendent James Scully congratulated the students on having the “courage” to enroll in college classes as high school students.

"The extra classes will put you ahead of the game," Scully said. "Thank you for representing Haverhill High as well as you have."

Student speaker Joshua Smith said his experience with Early College influenced him in numerous ways and that he walks away with many good memories. He reminded his fellow students, “As a class we are the face of Early College.”

This was the first time the recognition celebration was held on the NECC campus.

The Early College Program began six years ago with a group of sophomores who took college classes at the high school (English, history and two electives) taught by NECC professors and high school teachers who served as adjunct professors.

Under the old model, students chose from humanities-based courses such as English, social studies, psychology and history, while the new model allows for those courses in addition to STEM courses. Classes will be scheduled for the beginning or end of the school day.

The program was not offered to sophomores this year because the model is changing. 

"We will be accepting only juniors and seniors who take the Accuplacer test to qualify," Kitsos said. "They must score at a college reading level."

She said this new group will take all of their classes at NECC. Custodia-Lora said this will allow students the opportunity to experience the campus and participate in the college’s clubs, and use the gym and library.

Kitsos said the new model also opens up more opportunities for students who qualify for financial aid because they can apply for state dual enrollment money, which was not available under the previous early college model. 

"There was a segment of our population that didn't have early college as an option," Kitsos said. "We're calling it Early College/Dual Enrollment and we're moving away from just the humanities."

Kitsos said students in the program enter college as either sophomores or second-semester freshmen.

"In our experience, all Massachusetts state colleges accepted these credits, although UNH and Plymouth State (in New Hampshire) accepted these credits as well, as did Norwich University (in Vermont)," she said.

"We expect greater numbers of students,'' she said, "especially with students interested in taking science courses at a reduced rate per credit.''

Early College students have been accepted to a variety of schools, including:
  • Bridgewater State University
  • Champlain College
  • Roger Williams University
  • Suffolk University
  • UMaine Orono
  • UMass Lowell
  • University of New Hampshire
  • Wentworth Institute of Technology
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • University of Rhode island