Getting Answers: State lawmakers pass $56 billion 2024 fiscal year budget
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - After much debate, state lawmakers have passed a $56 billion 2024 fiscal year budget. The budget includes a variety of new policies involving free community college tuition, school meals, and health care. Lawmakers are calling this budget a major ‘win’ with record funding for various programs in the state. But they also hoped for a different outcome for some pieces of legislation.
“This budget I believe is going to do a lot of good for a lot of people,” said State Senator Jo Comerford.
After weeks of debate, lawmakers at the state house have passed a $56 billion 2024 fiscal year budget. One of the biggest pieces of legislation sparking conversation, free community college tuition for nursing students and students over the age of 25.
“Regardless of age, nursing students have their tuition fees and books covered as well,” noted Renee Tastad, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs at HCC. “Nursing is an expensive program, it’s an expensive degree and to have this covered by the state, the state is really recognizing the importance of filling vacant nursing positions.”
The $20 million legislation will provide free community college tuition for about 1.8 million Massachusetts residents, who don’t have a degree.
“Now is the time if you’ve started, your degree, and you haven’t yet finished or maybe you’ve been putting off getting a degree because you weren’t sure how to pay for it, now it’s free for any adult age 25 or older, if you haven’t had a prior college degree,” added Tastad.
Western Mass News is getting answers from Holyoke Community College on what this legislation means for people in the Bay State.
“You have to be enrolled in at least six credits, so part time through your time earning your degree,” explained Tastad. “It does allow some flexibility that way so individuals can continue to work if they need to.”
Vice President of Student Affairs told us the program is not income dependent. Qualified students must fill out a FAFSA form and apply for enrollment at any of the community colleges in Massachusetts.
Also, part of this state budget includes:
- A permanent universal FREE school lunch program.
- In-state tuition for undocumented high school graduates.
- And a pilot program that would expand affordable health care coverage to middle income residents.
State Senator Jo Comerford told us she is happy with what is included in the budget but had hoped for a different outcome for some pieces of legislation.
“There are some funding levels that I wish were a little higher,” expressed Senator Comerford. “We were hoping for 20 million for rural schools. We got 15. So, we can build on that.”
Senator Comerford added there are ongoing negotiations Monday night about the state’s supplemental budget which would include millions of dollars of funding for farmers impacted by the floods this month.
Meanwhile, the fiscal year 2024 budget now heads to Governor Maura Healey’s desk for her signature.
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