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GRAD Last Mile Fund scholarship aims to help students finish degrees

The innovative scholarship program is designed to provide financial support to students nearing college graduation.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, in partnership with the Frieze Family Foundation, today announced the launch of the GRAD Last Mile Fund, an innovative scholarship program designed to provide financial support to students nearing college graduation. The fund will provide resources to students for whom financial hardships are a barrier to completing a higher education degree program.

"The GRAD Last Mile Fund will enable more Boston students to realize their dream of graduating from college," said Mayor Walsh. "Financial hardship should not prevent any student from completing the 'last mile' on their journey toward earning a college degree, and I am proud that through this new fund, we will be able to help more students cross the finish line and earn their degree."

"We are excited to support students that are in their last semester to cover non-academic costs that are not traditionally covered by other scholarship programs such as transportation, rent, child care, medical care and other unexpected life expenses," said a statement from the Frieze Family Foundation. "We are pleased to seed this program of 'last mile support' with the hope that other funders will join us so even more students can reach their goal of graduation."

The Frieze Family Foundation committed to fund the pilot year of the GRAD Last Mile Fund, and funds will be distributed to five schools that are highly attended by Boston students: Bunker Hill Community College, MassBay Community College, Roxbury Community College, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology and UMass Boston. The GRAD Last Mile Fund awards will vary based upon need, with a maximum grantamount of $2,500 per student.

"This award helps me achieve my goal of graduating from nursing school by aiding me in paying for transportation, books, and allowing me to take more days off of work to study for exams," said Taressa Jones, a senior at UMass Boston. "I am so happy to have been chosen as a recipient of this award and I plan to use my education to give back to the City of Boston that has so graciously helped me. I plan to engage in community nursing in and around Boston communities."

"As a Success Boston partner, we work to help students get ready, get in and get through college and connected to a successful career," said Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College. "The GRAD Fund is a welcome addition to the many comprehensive programs that focus on increasing college completion rates in Boston.  It will help to ensure that more Boston students are able to reach the finish line and receive their degrees."

"At UMass Boston,we have a number of students who are very close to completing their degrees but experience insurmountable financial challenges such as food and housing insecurity, family medical issues, childcare, and employment challenges that make it impossible for them to finish," said Joan Becker, vice provost for Academic Support Services at the University of Massachusetts Boston. "The GRAD Last Mile Scholarship will make it possible for these students to walk across the stage with their degree proudly in hand."

For many people, higher education is a key driver for their success and research has shown that there are fewer pathways to a steady career for those who have some college experience, but no degree. Mayor Walsh's Education Cabinet works to create coordinated birth-to-career education systems that provide students with high-quality learning opportunities, get them College, Career and Life Ready and, increasingly, guarantee them a post-secondary education.   

"In June, when we honored City Scholarship recipients, we talked about working toward establishing a social contract with Boston's young people that guarantees them a post-secondary education," said Chief of Education Turahn Dorsey. "The establishment of the GRAD Last Mile Fund helps us take an important step toward delivering on that guarantee. We expect that helping students complete the last mile of their college educations will directly onramp them to gainful careers and productive lives."

The City of Boston offers many resources for residents pursuing higher education. On the Mayor's Education Cabinet's Higher Education Resource page, residents can find the resources most appropriate for their educational goals in one place, including the Tuition-Free Community College program, The Boston Bridge and an inventory of local scholarships. In addition, the City of Boston's Scholarship Fund disburses almost $300,000 in scholarship aid every year for Boston residents. These programs combine to create a multi-pronged approach to higher education access and completion in the city.

Candidates for GRAD Last Mile Fund scholarships must be Boston residents that are on track academically to graduate in the next semester and have a demonstrated financial need. Priority will be given to students who have not registered for their final semester or paid tuition by a pre-established cutoff date, have exhausted other sources of aid available, are undocumented and/or DACA students with limited options for financial assistance, and/or are parents and/or veterans. 

For more information on the GRAD Last Mile Fund, or how to contribute, please visit the fund website.

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