Daily News

State Senators Praise Latest Step Toward Universal Community College

BOSTON — In an important step toward making community college free for all residents in Massachusetts, Senate leaders received a briefing on Wednesday on “Planning and Delivery of Free Community College in Massachusetts,” an interim report submitted to the Legislature that provides a menu of options for implementing universal free community college.

The report touts universal free community college as a potent driver for Massachusetts to become more competitive nationally, noting that it has the potential to drive employment opportunity, boost economic mobility, and help the population become more educated. The benefits have particular impact for people of color, those who have migrated to the state, and individuals from low-income backgrounds.

“Our Commonwealth has extensive opportunities to grow and become even more competitive at the national level. But to do it, we need people to be able to fill the long list of job openings in critical fields: nurses, educators, life-science experts, and more,” Senate President Karen Spilka said. “This interim report lays out a plan for filling those jobs and making our state more competitive and equitable by removing a major financial barrier for our students, enabling them to complete a degree and stay in Massachusetts. I’m grateful to the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges for their tremendous work on this, and I look forward to continuing on the path to deliver universal free community college.”

The report was conducted by the Massachusetts Assoc. of Community Colleges (MACC) and comes following an FY 2024 budget item that directed MACC to provide recommendations to the state for implementing free community college by fall of 2024.

The report presents three possible models for how Massachusetts can pursue free community college and highlights issues important to the delivery of high-quality education, including wraparound services, faculty and staff salaries, aging facilities and equipment, and workforce considerations.

“Massachusetts is leaping ahead to tackle college affordability and to expand access to public higher education. I am deeply grateful to Senate President Karen Spilka for her vision and her commitment to investing in one of our Commonwealth’s greatest equity engines,” said state Sen. Jo Comerford, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education. “This important report offers us pathways forward to make community college free for all, and to do so in a way that ensures student success, supports staff and faculty, is fiscally sustainable, maximizes the benefits to our Commonwealth, and offers Massachusetts residents a world-class education. Thank you to everyone who served on the advisory committee that produced this interim report.”

MassReconnect and free nursing at community colleges have been broadly cheered by educators and shown early signs of success. Community colleges in the Commonwealth saw an 8% single-year increase in enrollment, according to a recent report from the Department of Higher Education.

MACC is scheduled to deliver a final report to the Legislature by the end of April, after which the Senate and the House will discuss next steps towards delivering free community college.