Boston expands tuition-free community college program to all residents

Students register for classes on the final day of registration at Bunker Hill Community College, Sep. 2, 2016. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Students register for classes on the final day of registration at Bunker Hill Community College, Sep. 2, 2016. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Boston has expanded its tuition-free community college program to include all city residents regardless of age, income or immigration status.

Starting this fall, any city resident will be eligible to pursue an associate’s degree or certificate at one of six partnering local institutions without paying to attend. The program also includes a $250 stipend for incidental expenses each semester for up to three years, and up to $2,500 of debt relief for students whose account balances are keeping them from re-enrolling.

The partner community colleges include Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, Bunker Hill Community College, Massasoit Community College, MassBay Community College, Roxbury Community College and Urban College of Boston.

The expansion is thanks to a $4 million federal investment, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said during a Thursday news conference. Wu said she believes “that every Boston resident who wants to earn the skills and knowledge to give back to our communities and build a life here should be able to do so.”

In Boston and statewide, community college enrollment has suffered in recent years, with many high school graduates opting instead to enter a hot labor market .

The program expansion is designed to nudge residents back on track to earning a degree, Wu said.

The expansion was announced to a crowd at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, which is marking its 150th anniversary. Boston officials also unveiled a new program in which MassArt will offer a tuition-free bachelor’s degree to students eligible for federal Pell grants who transfer from a partner community college.

Boston's tuition-free community college program has served over 1,000 students since 2016, according to city officials. In remarks Thursday, Wu said “students in the tuition-free community college program are three times more likely to graduate from community college than peers."

“These young people earn more credits, enjoy higher employment rates and report higher earnings,” she said.

The program comes alongside an expansion of free community college at the state level, including the MassReconnect program , which is aimed at residents without a degree who are over the age of 25.


Max Larkin Twitter Reporter, Education
Max Larkin is an education reporter.



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