Across the Commonwealth, students, families, and policymakers grapple with how to handle escalating college costs. It not only affects household budgets and bottom lines, but our Commonwealth’s future economic success.
Massachusetts compares well to other states when it comes to per-pupil state support for higher education. This year the Commonwealth budgeted nearly $1.6 billion in operating and capital funds for our 29 public campuses and awarded $150 million directly to Massachusetts college students in financial aid and tuition waivers. MASSGrant, the state’s largest financial aid program, provides annual grants to almost 50,000 full-time students.
This year, the Baker-Polito Administration is hoping to do more for thousands of low-income students who attend community colleges across the Commonwealth.
Governor Baker’s fiscal year 2019 budget increases college scholarship funding by more than $7.5 million to fully cover any unmet tuition and fee costs.
The Governor’s scholarship plan is the largest increase to the MASSGrant financial aid program in more than two decades, and will fund last-dollar scholarships for all full- and part-time community college students who qualify for federal Pell Grants.
Approximately 60 percent of the state’s community college students are enrolled part-time, but previously did not qualify for MASSGrant aid.
Why are we targeting increased financial aid to community college students?
Nationally, about 45 percent of community college students are low-income and almost 40 percent are the first in their family to attend college. Unfortunately, due to financial pressures, they often struggle to complete their degrees or certificates, on time, if at all.
Targeting community college students for more financial aid strengthens the likelihood they will earn a degree.
For community college students who are able to attend school full-time, these new scholarship dollars can have greater impact when combined with Commonwealth Commitment, the state’s low-cost pathway to a bachelor’s degree.
Under Commonwealth Commitment, students who complete their associate’s degree before transferring to a public four-year college can earn a bachelor’s degree for about $30,000 – before financial aid. For qualifying low-income students, that already discounted price tag could now be significantly lower.
In addition, the Baker-Polito administration last year launched a new “early college” initiative.
Early College programs make college more accessible to students by giving them opportunities to learn in college-level courses, while at the same time earning credits at no cost - which eases their financial burdens later.
Early College also boosts college completion rates for low-income students, minorities, and first-generation college-goers.
Nine new programs, which received official designation status, will enroll thousands of students this fall to study in college courses. These designated early college programs are a crucial step forward in creating more opportunities for high school students to be ready for college.
Massachusetts leads the nation when it comes to the percentage of our workforce with a college degree. Maintaining that leadership position is essential to our competitive advantage.