Healey proposes free community college for some Mass. residents

Healey proposes free community college for some Mass. residents
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 2:52 PM EST
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - Governor Maura Healey filed her 2024 fiscal year budget on Wednesday and it included funding for free community college tuition for about a million Bay State residents through a new program that would make higher education more accessible to people in Massachusetts.

“It is about teamwork. It is about harnessing the immense talents and riches we have in our state - human capital, intellectual capital, innovation, a commitment to seeing a greater realization of opportunity - and that’s what it’s about,” Healey explained.

That new program is called MassReconnect and the Healey-Driscoll budget plan dedicates $20 million to fund it. The program would provide free community college tuition for about 1.8 million Massachusetts residents, 25 years of age or older, who don’t have an equivalent degree.

“We have so many adults living in Massachusetts who just have a little bit of schooling. They got in, they got out, life got in the way,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll.

Western Mass News brought details of this proposal to administrators at Holyoke Community College. They found Driscoll’s statement to be true.

“I think it’s a tremendous, especially when we look at Hampden and Hampshire counties. There are hundreds of thousands of individuals who are over the age of 25 and have no college degree,” said Renee Tastad, assistant vice president of student affairs and dean of enrollment management at Holyoke Community College.

For HCC, the demographic that would benefit from this funding makes up more than 30 percent of their student body and that includes Ariel Tourmaline, a 35-year-old studying psychology at HCC. She tried college in the past, but never finished.

“It got to the point where now I’m 35 and I have a kid and I don’t have the qualifications for a living wage job,” Tourmaline said.

However, she’s looking to change that by finishing out two years at HCC and hopefully moving on to a four-year college. Tourmaline said this proposal could change lives for people just like her.

“I did put it off because of the fear of debt for sure. I put it off for a long time because of that…There’s absolutely no question that this would open up so much opportunity for so many people,” Tourmaline added.

Although this announcement is exciting for many, it will be a while until we learn if the program will be created. The proposal was filed with Healey’s budget in its entirety Wednesday afternoon.

These are only recommendations and the House and Senate will be producing their own budgets, then both the legislature will take up their budgets on the floor, usually in the spring. After that, a conference committee will be appointed to figure out the differences in the budgets and the final version will then be voted on in the summer.