News

Brendan Fitzpatrick

September 20, 2023

MassReconnect Program for Free Community College Launches at MassBay

Photo courtesy of Daderot, Creative Commons

WELLESLEY - Massachusetts Bay Community College recently hosted a ceremony announcing the official launch of the MassReconnect program, an initiative that will provide community college courses free of charge for thousands of residents across the state.

Passed as part of the 2024 fiscal year budget by state legislators on Beacon Hill and later approved by Governor Maura Healey, MassReconnect will cater to students 25 years old and above who have been a permanent Massachusetts resident for at least a year.

At the MassBay event, which was attended by a number of local and state educational and legislative officials, Healey called the new program an “investment in our state.”

“This is about making sure we are meeting the moment here in Massachusetts…and taking advantage of opportunities for tremendous individual economic mobility and growth,” Healey said.

Recipients of this assistance must also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and they must not have a bachelor’s degree, associate degree, or an equivalent degree from any other institution.

“We estimate there’s 700,000 residents in Massachusetts that have taken some college credits but haven’t completed their degrees,” Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Marketing, and Communications at MassBay Community College Jeremy Solomon explained, “so that’s one population that this program targets.”

Each of the state’s 15 community colleges, including MassBay, has been given $100,000 in MassReconnect’s first year to help launch the program. Solomon added that the money is not just for tuition.

“When we talk about free community college, that’s exactly what we’re talking about,” Solomon said.

“Students will be reimbursed for tuition, for fees, and they also get an allowance for books and supplies. So you are talking zero cost to achieve an associate degree in Massachusetts.”

Attendees at the announcement event, including 2nd Middlesex and Norfolk District State Senator and Senate President Karen Spilka, highlighted MassReconnect’s potential to help alleviate ongoing workforce shortages while also getting more residents closer to their career aspirations.

“Everybody in this room knows education is critical and can mean many things to many different people,” Spilka continued.

Some of those people, the students who will be earning their degree thanks to MassReconnect, were present at the ceremony as well. One of the recipients of aid is 38-year-old Danita Mends, who is pursuing a degree in interior design. She noted factors such as other bills to pay as obstacles to achieving educational goals.

Mends described this opportunity to attendees as “life-changing.”

“To have this financial burden lifted is amazing,” Mends said, “and I’m excited for the opportunities that are going to open up and the things that are going to change my family.”

Healey anticipates that anywhere from 6,500 to 8,000 students benefit from MassReconnect in its pilot school year, as that number could grow to upwards of 10,000 by the next fiscal year.

“We want to see as many people who are eligible for MassReconnect to take advantage of the program,” Healey said.

To learn more about MassReconnect, visit mass.gov.

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