Mayor Walsh discusses importance of citywide tuition-free community college
October 26, 2016
WASHINGTON DC - Mayor Martin J. Walsh today offered the following remarks at a White House Community College convening about citywide tuition-free community college as part of President Obama's vision for America's College Promise. Dr. Jill Biden and White House senior officials convened a group of university presidents, policymakers, elected officials, foundations, business leaders, researchers and students to discuss best practices to strengthen community college reform.
As part of the panel presentation, Mayor Walsh announced that the City of Boston is currently exploring ways to expand its tuition-free community college program to include Quincy College and Mass Bay Community College. Currently, graduates of Boston Public Schools are able to apply for the program to attend Bunker Hill Community College or Roxbury Community College free of tuition costs.
Remarks of Mayor Walsh as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Jerry Abramson. Jerry has done great work on behalf of his own city, Louisville, and for all cities on a range of issues, from education to criminal justice. I also want to thank Dr. Jill Biden, who I know isn't here this morning, but has been incredibly committed to this work, too. Thank you to my fellow panelists: Krissy DeAlejandro, and President Mellow.
Like all of us here, Boston was proud to answer President Obama's call to make tuition-free community college a reality in our city. Education is the most effective tool we have for moving people upwards in our economy. It's how we truly break the social and financial barriers that hold back too many of our students and families. And the need for education beyond high school is growing- all across the country, and especially in Boston. Nearly 77% of Boston's jobs will require postsecondary education and training by 2020.
Education is the most effective tool we have for moving people upwards in our economy. It's how we truly break the social and financial barriers that hold back too many of our students andfamilies
And the costs of college are always getting higher: over the last 3 decades, the cost of college tuition and fees has increased nearly 4 times faster than the median income. When you combine that with the fact that the median wage of Boston residents has stayed roughly the same for the last 3 decades --- it's no wonder that students and families find it harder and harder to make ends meet, let alone make college a reality. A recent study showed that the median earnings of Boston residents in 2014 was $35,273---a figure that has remained the same, in real terms, for nearly 3 decades. And African Americans and Hispanics have the highest rates of unemployment in our City, and the lowest level of education. Of those working, 44% of Hispanics and 27.3% of black people have less than a high school degree, compared to 10.4% of white people.
And we know how much of an impact a degree can have on a person's life. An Associate's degree holder is 1.7 times more likely to make $35,000 or more, compared to a high school diploma. A Bachelor's degree holder is 2.2 times more likely to make that amount.
Working with our Office of Workforce Development, we found an opportunity to leverage our citywide growth to help fund a tuition-free community college program for our students. Since the application went live on June 1st, we've had a strong response. We've gotten 94 applications and 41 Boston Public School graduates in the program. We anticipate a surge in applications for the Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 semesters. We know this plan will make a tremendous difference. It will help lift low-income families out of poverty, and get on a sustainable path to success.
The strength of our economy depends on the strength of our workforce. And the strength of our workforce depends on young people receiving high-quality education.
But while the Tuition Free Plan helps address barriers to cost, we need to do more. This is a step in a more comprehensive, long-term plan to prepare graduates for the challenges of higher education & beyond. So we're going to explore adding more schools to our program. We're working with a local college (Emerson College) on a feasibility study, to design and implement a Creative Industries Program. And we're working with the state on creating a 4-year degree pathway--- to help students move from community college graduates enter universities and not be weighed down by tons of debt.
In Boston, we remain absolutely committed to growing our tuition-free program. We understand how important it is to our students and families. The strength of our economy depends on the strength of our workforce. And the strength of our workforce depends on young people receiving high-quality education. That's how we build a better Boston, and a better future for all of our residents. Thank you.