As nearly 300,000 students at Massachusetts’ community colleges, state universities and University of Massachusetts campuses begin their first few weeks of the fall semester, the Department of Higher Education (DHE) awarded $2.4 million in competitive grants to increase access to college by students across the Commonwealth.

Twenty-five campuses were awarded grants through the Commonwealth Dual Enrollment Partnership (CDEP) to expand the state’s dual enrollment programs, which allow high school students to take college courses and earn credit for free or at a reduced cost. CDEP funding increased from $750,000 in FY15 to $1 million in FY16. The DHE has set a goal of increasing dual enrollment from 2,000 to 3,400 students and is using a new dual enrollment video, outreach to high schools and social media to promote opportunities at campuses.

Massasoit, where priority will be given to dual enrollment students interested in high-demand Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, was among the 25 grant recipients.

Also awarded were Vision Project Performance Incentive Fund (VP-PIF) grants to support partnerships aimed at increasing the college-going and college completion rates of under-represented, low-income and first-generation students. Seven campuses were awarded a total of $500,000 in new funding, with continuation grants going to 16 additional campuses to support ongoing projects.

“Increasing collaboration between high schools and higher education is important to making a college education more affordable and creating more opportunities for students across the Commonwealth to succeed in college and their careers,”  said Governor Charlie Baker. “These awards also present opportunities for college campuses and their regional partners to focus creatively on boosting college completion rates and advancing more students from diverse and underserved populations.”

“Together, our competitive Dual Enrollment and Performance Incentive Fund grant programs help growing numbers of students realize the dream of obtaining a college degree,” said Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos Santiago. “It is terrific to see UMass, state university and community college faculty and staff working together and also with local school districts to widen the pathways from high school to college. This is at the core of the mission of public higher education, which is to strengthen Massachusetts families, communities and industries by educating our future citizenry and skilled workforce.”