Fast Start: HBCU aims to expand access in partnership

Morgan State University's partnership with Modern States will provide free college courses to high school students to help ease admission, costs.
By: | June 29, 2021
Photo courtesy of Morgan State University

Since 2017, the nonprofit Modern States Education Alliance has helped more than 280,000 students take free courses through edX to prepare for the College Level Examination Program from the College Board.

Those classes can provide an affordable, flexible way for high school students to earn credits and explore colleges and universities they had only dreamed of attending.

An offshoot of the program, Modern States last year forged a partnership with Purdue University on a guaranteed admissions initiative called Fast Start for students who take courses, pass them and meet other criteria. That initiative is being expanded to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the first signed on last week: Morgan State University.

Students who pass four courses and credit-bearing exams—and have the academic credentials to attend—will be accepted to the university. In addition to an accelerated path to graduation, the program’s main attraction in drawing potential students is a cost savings of upwards of $8,000. It is all part of the nonprofit’s mission to provide a freshman year for free.

“Students who complete the Morgan Fast Start Program will be able to potentially shave a semester or even a year off the time it takes to complete their Morgan degree and that will appeal to a number of prospective students,” said Dr. Kara Turner, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success at Morgan State. “We are excited to be the first HBCU selected by Modern States to partner on the Fast Start program. Together we will increase the number of college-ready students in Maryland while decreasing the cost of a college education.”

The program

The Fast Start effort is taking off thanks to a donation from the family of Steven and Maureen Klinsky and grants from the Carnegie, Starr and Heckscher foundations. It not only helps defray tuition costs but pays for texts and exams, among other things. The Fast Start partnership with Morgan State and future HBCUs will save students more than $10 million and bring access to an array of free online college courses and tests, according to officials.

“This commitment to HBCUs helps broaden our mission of helping all people afford a better education in order to reach their full potential,” said Steven Klinsky, the founder and CEO of Modern States, which has forged partnerships with both states and institutions, including the State University of New York and Texas systems.

For students who have considered taking gap years or have been hard to reach, there are big benefits that come from the program, aside from cost savings. There are dozens of course options available—from accounting, English and Spanish to STEM subjects such as biology, chemistry and math—and they can be done any time and even taken via mobile devices. Pass the exams and students effectively receive credits at nearly 3,000 colleges and universities.

Modern States officials say those institutions interested in exploring the Fast Start program or other initiatives can contact Executive Director David Vise at David@ModernStates.org. HBCUs should contact Vice President Stephanie Costner at stephanie@modernstates.org.