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Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kimberley Driscoll budget includes free community college for certain individuals



CHARLESTOWN – Governor Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kimberley Driscoll announced that their Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget will include funding to create the MassReconnect program, which will cover the cost of community college for all Massachusetts resident aged 25 or older without an equivalent credential. The budget’s funding, announced at Bunker Hill Community College today, also includes several other investments in education and workforce development programs, such as Early College and Innovation Pathways, the Community College SUCCESS fund, the Healthcare Worker Training and AFL-CIO Workforce Development programs, Career Technical Institutes and Registered Apprenticeship Programs.

“Workforce shortages have impacted nearly all sectors of our economy, but we have an incredible opportunity before us to train the next generation of workers and increase opportunities for all,” said Governor Healey. “The MassReconnect program, as well as the other investments in education and workforce development that we call for in our budget, will be transformative for hundreds of thousands of our residents. More students than ever before will be able to advance or complete their educations and set themselves up for a successful career in in-demand industries like health care, engineering, advanced manufacturing and tech.”

“Our administration is committed to providing more equitable education and career pathways, which will expand opportunity for all and strengthen our economy,” said Lieutenant Governor Driscoll. “Community colleges, vocational and technical schools, apprenticeship programs and early college all provide meaningful opportunities for students to prepare for their future careers and set themselves up for success. We’re excited to launch MassReconnect and increase investments in many of the proven programs that are already serving our residents so well.”

The budget (H. 1) was filed on Wednesday afternoon and includes $20 million for the creation of MassReconnect, a new program that will support Massachusetts residents who are 25 years old and older and who have not yet earned a college degree or industry credential. It would offer students last-dollar financial support to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies as well as provide funding for career and wraparound support services to encourage retention and degree-completion.

Healey’s Office states that the MassReconnect program would give more than 1.8 million residents who have a high school diploma or equivalency, many of whom are students of color, the financial flexibility to consider advancing their education without having to worry about incurring unaffordable debt. It can also help bring back students who have received some college credit but did not finish their degree. As of July 2020, nearly 696,000 Massachusetts residents had some college credit but no degree – the majority of whom are over 25.

H.1 proposes $46.9 million for Early College and Innovation Pathways, a $14.4 million expansion over FY23. This investment will expand opportunities for high school students across the Commonwealth to explore college and career pathways before graduating high school. The Early College program under this budget would provide approximately 18,122 students in the 2023-2024 school year the opportunity to earn up to 12 college credits before graduating, and the Innovation Pathways will enroll approximately 10,194 students in coursework across priority industries including IT, engineering, healthcare, life sciences and advanced manufacturing.

H.1 makes a number of other investments in education and workforce development programs that will help more students access the skills they need to get a job in today’s economy. These include:

$18 million, an increase of $4 million, for the Community College SUCCESS fund, which awards grants to community colleges to provide wraparound supports and services to improve outcomes for their most vulnerable populations, such as low-income, first-generation, minority, and disabled students and LGBTQ+ students.

$17.9 million to support Career Technical Institutes, which help close skills training gaps by expanding access to vocational education.

$5 million for Registered Apprenticeship Programs, quadrupling the investment to continue thousands of placements for registered apprentices in fiscal year 2024, building on the Governor’s proposed expansion of the apprenticeship tax credit. This is a $4 million increase from FY23.

$1.15 million for the Healthcare Worker Training and AFL-CIO Workforce Development programs.

$16.2 million for Youthworks, subsidizing wages for summer jobs for at-risk youth and facilitating career development for 14- to 25-year-olds to reduce juvenile delinquency and young adult homelessness. At this level, Youthworks anticipates connecting approximately 3,600 youth with employment during the summer and school year.

“I am in full support of offering free community college in collaboration with the MassReconnect program. This game-changing opportunity would allow students, 25 and up who have not yet earned a college credential, to return to college to complete their degrees and gain valuable skills to support their careers, enhance their quality of life, and boost Bristol County’s economy,” said Dr. Laura L. Douglas, President, Bristol Community College. “Following World War II, opportunities to attend college became more available to our citizens like never before. These similar investments in degree attainment led to the Mass Higher Education Era, which afforded our nation the knowledge and skills to become a great leader in education levels and economic development.”

“Bunker Hill is proud to be one of the most diverse colleges in Massachusetts, and our average student is over the age of 26. While we are also the most affordable community college in the state, we see far too often how cost is major barrier for students, especially adult students, many with family obligations, to begin and finish their educations. The MassReconnect Program will be a gamechanger for community colleges and hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents. I’m grateful to Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll for making these historic investments in our Commonwealth’s future.” -Dr. Pam Eddinger, President, Bunker Hill Community College

“Our research indicates that there are 30,000-plus chronically unfilled tech-related jobs in the Commonwealth. Better alignment of Community College career preparation and Innovation Pathways are two important tools to ensuring Massachusetts employers have access to the skilled workforce they need. The Massachusetts High Technology Council is pleased the Governor proposes investing in programs that expand educational and career opportunities for Massachusetts students and adults while supporting our innovation economy.” -Elizabeth Mahoney, VP of Policy & Government Affairs, Mass High Tech Council

“While Massachusetts boasts the most educated population in the country, there are roughly 1.8 million individuals across the Commonwealth aged 25 and up who have a high school diploma or equivalent but no higher education credential. Thanks to the vision and leadership of Governor Healey and Lt. Governor Driscoll, MassReconnect opens the doors to a college education for adults across the Commonwealth while simultaneously helping to build a skilled workforce pipeline for industries across the state.” – Nate Mackinnon, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges

“This budget marks further proof that Massachusetts under the Healey-Driscoll Administration is a growing leader in ensuring that historically underserved students are better able to achieve the college and career success that’s critical for them, for the workforce, and for our Commonwealth broadly.” -Erika Giampietro, Executive Director, MA Alliance for Early College

“Massachusetts businesses are struggling to find workers with the skills needed for open positions, and that negatively impacts our near and long-term competitiveness. It’s great to see the Healey-Driscoll Administration prioritize making education and job training more affordable and accessible for all.” -Jay Ash, President and CEO, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership

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