$4 Million Investment to Expand Boston's Tuition-Free Community College Program
All residents are now eligible to pursue an associates degree program or a short-term certificate program free of cost at one of six partner community colleges.
Mayor Michelle Wu and the Worker Empowerment Cabinet today announced a $4 million investment to expand the Tuition-Free Community College (TFCC) Plan, a City initiative that pays for up to three years of college for Boston’s income-eligible students. The expanded plan will cover costs for all residents – regardless of their year of graduation, income, or immigration status – enrolled in an associate degree program or a short-term certificate program at one of six partner colleges. Mayor Wu made this announcement today at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), an institution that has launched a pilot program in partnership with the City of Boston.
"Expanding Boston's Tuition Free Community College is a critical step in ensuring more of our city's residents are eligible to pursue a higher education right here in the City. This funding will increase community college enrollment, and connect more residents with quality jobs," said Mayor Michelle Wu. "I want to thank Congresswoman Pressley for her leadership and all of our partner institutions for their critical work ensuring that we are closing gaps and expanding access to education for all.”
Managed by the Office of Workforce Development (OWD), a department within the Worker Empowerment Cabinet, the Tuition-Free Community College (TFCC) Plan covers the balance owed after financial aid and other funding has been applied and provides students with a stipend at six partner community colleges: Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, Bunker Hill Community College, Massasoit Community College, MassBay Community College, Roxbury Community College, and Urban College of Boston. TFCC will continue providing selected students with a $250 stipend per semester for up to three years. Research from Northeastern University shows that students in the tuition-free community college program are three times more likely to graduate from community college than peers who don’t have the support associated with this program. Students earn more credits, enjoy higher employment rates and report higher earnings
This $4 million investment is funded by $3 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and an additional $1 million investment is made possible through the Community Project Funding secured by U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley last year. With this new investment, TFCC will now start paying off up to $2,500 of debt for students with an outstanding balance at a partner college if the balance prevents them from re-enrolling.
“Not only will expanding Boston’s tuition-free community college program help more students earn a college degree, but it will also help us address the college affordability crisis,” said Rep. Pressley. “I am proud to have secured these federal funds to expand this program, and I’m grateful to Mayor Wu, Mayor Janey, community leaders, and our students for their close partnership.”
“By spending Boston’s American Rescue Plan funds on tuition-free community college, we’re making a long-term investment in Boston’s greatest resource, our people,” said City Councilor Kenzie Bok, chair of the Council’s Committee on Boston’s Covid-19 Recovery. “I’m very proud that the Council and the Mayor could work together with Congresswoman Pressley to expand resident access to free high-quality educational opportunities, which is critical to bridging economic and racial inequality while meeting the needs of our growing industries. This initiative will have huge positive ripple effects in our local economy and community.”
This expansion aims to address the pandemic’s impact on community college enrollment, completion rates, and eliminate barriers to re-enrollment for aspiring students. Since 2016, the program has served over 1,000 students. With these investments, TFCC’s eligibility requirements will now include all Boston residents, including older adults and undocumented immigrants. The City of Boston will be partnering with an immigrant-serving organization to provide support directly to undocumented students seeking to take advantage of the program.
“All immigrants are key members of our community who contribute to our vibrant culture and economy,” said Monique Tú Nguyen, Executive Director of the Mayor's Office for Immigrant Advancement. “They kept our essential industries running throughout the pandemic, despite the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on our BIPOC communities. Providing equal access to all residents, regardless of migratory status, honors their current contributions and invests in their potential in shaping Boston’s future. Now that all Bostonians are eligible to take tuition free community college classes – we hope many undocumented residents will enroll in this program.”
In an effort to meet the growing demand for industry-recognized certification, TFCC will now cover costs for any short-term certificate programs at its partner colleges that lead to an industry recognized credential. Certifications offer a pathway to in-demand, quality employment but are often not covered by federal financial aid. With the addition of short term certifications, students have the opportunity to receive credentials in industries such as healthcare, renewable energy, and information technology in as little as six months.
"Boston is expanding TFCC eligibility to include all residents, which will increase community college enrollment, facilitate upskilling in key industries, and re-engage former community college students by incentivizing them to re-enroll," said Trinh Nguyen, Chief of Worker Empowerment. "Everyone deserves access to higher education and credentials that lead to quality, good paying jobs."
The City has also launched a pilot program in partnership with the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt). The program will cover tuition, fees, and mandatory supplies for PELL-eligible students transferring from a partner community college to a bachelor's degree program at MassArt. The college will also provide wrap-around services and coaching for students through their existing transfer support program. The MassArt pilot program is open to students who meet the transfer admissions and TFCC eligibility requirements. This partnership aims to make the completion of a bachelor's degree more accessible and affordable for low to moderate income students.
“As MassArt celebrates its 150th anniversary, we are proud to partner with Mayor Wu and the City of Boston to provide access to a world class education in art, design and art education that is affordable to everyone admitted here,” said Dr. Mary Grant, MassArt President. “Removing economic barriers for these students ensures that these future artists, designers, makers, and innovators will enhance the economic, creative, and cultural vitality of the City and beyond.”
This announcement complements Mayor Michelle Wu and Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) announcement last year regarding a partnership with higher education institutions and employers across Boston, adding six new Early College and Innovation Pathway programs for the 2022-2023 school year. These programs provide new opportunities for BPS students to gain foundational college credits and work experience while still in high school in fields ranging from life sciences and health care, to computer science and finance. Since that announcement, Boston Public Schools continues its efforts to expand high-quality college and career pathways, most recently celebrating the designation of fourth new Early College pathways at Boston Community Leadership Academy, Brighton High School, Fenway High School, and New Mission High School set to launch in the 2023-2024 school year.
Early College programs are a critical strategy in increasing the number of Boston Public Schools graduates who enroll in post-secondary education and obtain a first credential of value and we are seeing tremendous gains across the Commonwealth.
"Expanding access to tuition-free community college in Boston is a vital milestone in equipping our city's residents with the tools they need to pursue their dreams and secure a brighter future,” said Boston Public Schools Superintendent Mary Skipper. “By removing a financial barrier, this investment adds another option for our students to access a postsecondary opportunity immediately following high school graduation and increase our overall college-going rates. Having a professional certification and credentials will also enable individuals to access high-quality jobs in high-demand industries. I extend my gratitude to Mayor Wu and Congresswoman Pressley for their unwavering commitment to this cause and our partner institutions' tireless efforts to close gaps and advance equitable access to education."
There is no longer a separate application required for the Tuition Free Community College (TFCC) Plan. Students simply need to apply and be admitted to their desired program, and the partner colleges will identify Boston residents and apply the funds as a part of their financial aid process. This approach streamlines the implementation of the funds by eliminating administrative barriers.
To learn more about the TFCC Plan expansion, visit boston.gov/tuition-free.
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- Published by: Worker Empowerment