Martha’s Vineyard Community College Consortium
Meeting an Island Need for Community Based Higher Education Access
Martha’s Vineyard is a unique island community with many advantages, but lack of post-secondary education impedes economic growth and deprives Island residents from reaching their full potential. For young adults who grow up and live full time on the Island, accessing a post-secondary education and starting a career has been challenging. As a solution, the ACE MV Community Education and Training has launched the Martha’s Vineyard Community College Consortium (MVCCC). Now in its pilot phase, the MVCCC utilizes partnerships with regional community colleges to offer Vineyard residents access to:
An Associate’s Degree pathway with college credits: General Education courses (such as English 101, Intro to Sociology) that are the foundation for a career major and credits that can transfer to any Massachusetts public college or university and to other colleges as well.
Credit-bearing Career Certificates: Leading to careers in areas such as early childhood education, off-shore wind, health care, business, green jobs, sustainable agriculture, information technology, and social services that build toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.
Cohort Learning Model: Bringing students together in person on island to learn with support (tutors, mentors, internships), increasing student success and building confidence, connection, and community.
Meeting A Critical Need
Islanders need more affordable public options for post-secondary education and more access to career pathways. Of those who go off Island to college, many drop out. Others choose not to enroll at all. A year after 156 MVRHS students graduated in 2020, 55% of the class had either dropped out or never enrolled in college. Of the MVRHS graduation cohort of 2018 (156 students), only 37% obtained a 2- or 4-year college degree within 6 years after HS graduation—5 points below the MA average.*
*MA DESE Data Analysis and Review Tool (DART).
The MVCCC pilot is addressing this need by bringing higher public education to the island, leveraging the Commonwealth’s existing resources. State and Federal financial aid helps to cover tuition and fees for low-income students. A cohort model is at the center of the pilot, drawing on research that online courses work best when students gather together in a supportive peer learning community with academic tutors, mentors, professional development, scholarships, and other wrap-around services. This model was successfully launched this fall with ten students participating in the MVCCC/Cape Cod Community College Early Childhood Education cohort, meeting weekly at MV Community Services with ECE experts for discussion groups, classwork support, and introductions to both center and home based future work options.
Recruitment is designed to reach the diverse island community, including the Wampanoag Tribe, Brazilians, African Americans, Jamaicans, veterans, high school graduates, youth ages 18+, and mid-career and older adults seeking to up-skill or change careers. The pilot is guided by an advisory council of dynamic community members, including educators, guidance and college counselors, business leaders, and recent MVRHS graduates.
The innovative MVCCC pilot is bringing together an exciting community of invested stakeholders to shape a full-scale Community College Consortium offering a wide range of community college and career programs. Building this for our Island will be informed by the pilot’s evaluation designed to answer key questions about: the demand for college coursework; which courses are most and least popular and successful; whether outcomes improve when a class is taught by onsite adjunct faculty; which wraparound service and supports make the most difference for students living on the island to succeed; how to best reach disconnected out-of-school youth/young adults.
Achieving this broader vision for the Island’s future will require years of program development and fundraising. As one of many small rural communities in America, the MVCCC could become a replicable model for other rural communities, especially now when a postsecondary credential is a requirement for most good jobs.