Middlesex Community College has served the Meriden community for many years — first, by offering college classes in the evenings at Maloney High School, and later in rented space known as the MxCC Meriden Center. The college’s downtown location helped bolster enrollment of Meriden residents and offered a college learning experience within our city boundaries.
Despite growing enrollment at the Meriden Center (peaking at about 600 students), MxCC faced significant budget reductions from the State of Connecticut. This impacted the college’s ability to continue paying rent for the downtown location. The MxCC Meriden Center was in jeopardy of closing its doors. Enrollment declined sharply.
Instead of closing completely, MxCC began looking for free educational space within the Meriden community. Led by Meriden’s state delegation of Sen. Len Suzio, Reps. Cathy Abercrombie, Emil Altobello, and Hilda Santiago, along with Meriden Board of Education members Robert KosienskiJr. and John LineenJr., an innovative collaborative agreement was created and successfully launched in the fall of 2017.
From this collaboration, “MxCC @Platt” was born. The college would move its Meriden Center to the newly renovated Orville H. Platt High School. In exchange for rent-free space, MxCC offered Meriden Public Schools' students and staff five free seats in all college classes offered at Platt. This was a win-win scenario for MxCC, MPS, and ultimately, all Meriden residents.
What started off as a need to find space evolved quickly into a tremendous opportunity to create a collaborative academic partnership between the college and the city’s school system. Locating a college within a high school is a progressive approach to making college more accessible— and in this case, free — to high school students at the Meriden Public Schools. Other districts have reached out to see how we made this work. It can be a model that others can replicate.
The first semester at Orville H. Platt High School, MxCC served over 300 students, which was similar to its enrollment at the downtown Meriden Center during its last year of operation. This spring semester, over 20 Meriden students and staff are taking MxCC classes for free, saving themselves and their families thousands of dollars toward earning their college degrees.
Sometimes it takes significant challenges to lead to creative innovations and successes. We applaud our elected leaders, terrific students and staff, and the City of Meriden for their combined support! We are all excited and proud to be able to offer opportunities for our residents to further their education, and we pledge our commitment to continue offering a college program within the city of Meriden.
Check out MxCC@ PHS, the home of Meriden's college: http://mxcc.edu/meriden/ Mark D. Benigni is superintendent of Meriden Public Schools. Steven Minkler is Interim president of Middlesex Community College.