Massachusetts Senate Proposes Universal Free Community College

Lawmakers in the Bay State are pushing for a landmark tuition plan, which could make community college free for everyone. 

New Approach to Schooling

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Under the upcoming Massachusetts state budget, Mass. residents could be looking at tuition-free community college as early as fall 2025 if a new education fund is accepted.

$118 Million for Students

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The state senate is releasing its $58 billion budget plan on Tuesday, which will include a $118 million plan to cut costs for all Massachusetts students planning to enroll in two-year tertiary courses.

What Qualifies

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This $118 million package would include $75.5 million to cover tuition fees for any residents who qualify, $24 million to cover community college fees for students 25 and older and $18 million for tuition at community college nursing programs in the state.

Stipend for Students

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What’s more, all students who earn below 125% of the state median income will also be granted a $1200 stipend for school supplies.

Introducing MassEducate to the State

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State Senate President Karen Spilka shared details of the plan, known as ‘MassEducate’ in a speech at Middlesex Community College’s Lowell campus on Monday. 

Sharing the News With Students

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She told the crowd that the state was working to launch a program that would grant a free community college degree to those who want one and that it would be “unfortunate” if the plan was not carried through.

“Not to Invest Would be Unfortunate”

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“We have the money, and to not invest right now would be an unfortunate set of circumstances for the commonwealth,” Spilka said. 

More Affordable, More Competitive, More Equitable

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“Everybody talks about the outmigration — people leaving — the need to be more affordable, more competitive, be more equitable, those are the three major words all of us hear wherever we go across the state,” she continued. 

The Three in Charge

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Spilka is one of three state senators to offer the plan, as well as Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues and Senate Higher Education Chair Jo Comerford.

Impacting Individuals Most in Need

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“Tuition-free community college impacts individuals most in need and who otherwise would not be afforded this opportunity. It will greatly help to keep our workforce graduates stand-ready to meet the challenges of a global economy,” said Rodrigues in a separate public statement.

Will It Get Through?

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However, the status of this tuition-free plan is still uncertain. State Governor Maura Healey and the House have not yet added funding for the plan to the upcoming budget proposal, so its legitimacy will be unclear until a final budget has been settled.

Expanding on MassReconnect

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If approved, MassEducate would be an expansion of a pre-existing program called MassReconnect, which provides free community college for people 25 and older who do not already have an existing degree.

Another Opportunity for Enrolment

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According to Phil Sisson, the president of Middlesex Community College, students have already enrolled in courses thanks to MassReconnect, and MassEducate would be an excellent opportunity to introduce more. 

“A Game-Changing Program”

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“All of our campuses look forward to welcoming and supporting all future students who will be able to take advantage of MassEducate when this latest game-changing program takes effect,” he said.

Pre-Enrolled Students Will Also Prosper

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If passed, the plan would also wipe the tuition fees for community college students who are already enrolled in their courses.

“Proves That It Works”

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During her speech, Spilka emphasized that the existing MassReconnect program was proof that MassEducate would “work.” “The MassReconnect proves that it works. The nursing program that the Senate added proves that it works,” she said.  “Massachusetts desperately needs workers.”

It Makes Economic Sense

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Senators supporting the MassEducate believe it just makes sense economically. It would help to boost the workforce from within the state without relying on outside workers and could help to reduce the drop in community college enrolments. 

Enrolment Rates Falling

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Massachusetts has 15 community colleges, but as of the 2023 fiscal year, only 90,000 students enrolled across all 15 schools. 

Decades of Decreases

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This is compared to enrolment rates from a decade ago, which saw average community college enrolments of 140,000 per year.

5000 Extra Students Enrolled

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Last year saw the first uptick in enrollments in those ten years. Politicians like Spilka and Co. believe that MassReconnect was responsible for more than 5,000 new students enrolling. 

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.