MCC President Sisson Joins Gov. Healey to Launch Free Community College for Massachusetts Residents 25+

August 29, 2023
MCC Provost Arlene Rodríguez; MCC Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Belonging; Maria Gariepy, Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, MCC Student Trustee Sarah Alzate-Perez; Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey; and MCC President Phil Sisson at a tuition equity event on Tuesday, Aug. 22. Courtesy Image

Submitted by the Office of Governor Maura T. Healey

Middlesex Community College President Phil Sisson joined Gov. Maura T. Healey to launch MassReconnect, her administration’s new program establishing free community college for Massachusetts residents, ages 25 and older, and awarded $100,000 to each of Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges to support the quick implementation of the program this fall.

Healey and Sisson were joined by Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, Senate President Karen Spilka, Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler, Commissioner of Higher Education Noe Ortega, and other community college presidents at MassBay Community College’s Wellesley Campus.

During the event, the Healey-Driscoll Administration highlighted the first MassReconnect students at MassBay, celebrating the impact the program is expected to have for students across the state. 

“MassReconnect will be transformative for thousands of students, for our amazing community colleges, and for our economy,” said Healey. “It will bolster the role of community colleges as economic drivers in our state and help us better meet the needs of businesses to find qualified, well-trained workers. We can also make progress in breaking cycles of intergenerational poverty by helping residents complete their higher education credentials so they can attain good jobs and build a career path. Our administration is grateful for the partnership of the Legislature to move forward on this critical program that will make our state more affordable, competitive and equitable.”

“Our administration and our community college partners are ready to hit the ground running with MassReconnect this fall semester. We encourage any eligible students who might have been holding off on taking that final step to enroll to do so now to begin this next stage of their education and career,” said Driscoll. “We are also proud to be setting our community colleges up for success by providing them each with $100,000 for implementation of this lifechanging program.”

 “In Massachusetts, we know that getting an education is a key to the middle class, supporting a family, building a life, and pursuing a brighter future. In this year’s state budget, we thrust open the doors to those opportunities and countless others, by making community college free for people 25 and over, making nursing programs at community colleges free for all individuals, and setting our state on a path to universal free community college in 2024,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “These proposals are a major step towards the Senate’s Student Opportunity Plan and are crucial to ensuring residents have the tools to build the futures they dream of — right here in Massachusetts.”

“MassReconnect will create life-changing educational and career opportunities through free community college for qualifying residents at institutions such as Quincy College and at other community colleges across the Commonwealth, including for many residents from historically underserved communities. This program will also help to address key labor shortages, while ensuring that Massachusetts possesses a highly trained workforce that is prepared for the industries of the future,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy).

Healey invested $20 million in MassReconnect for the first year of implementation in her first budget that was signed earlier this month. This funding covers the full cost of tuition and fees and includes an allowance for books and supplies at each of Massachusetts’ 15 community colleges.

Additionally, each community college will also receive $100,000 from this funding to support student and community program awareness, staffing, and program administration. Quincy College also received $1.5 million in the FY24 budget to operate a similar program.

There is still time to enroll in MassReconnect for this fall. The only steps necessary to sign up are to enroll in at least six credits per semester in an approved program of study leading to an associate degree or certificate at one of the Commonwealth’s 15 community colleges and complete the 2023-2024 FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid). There is no deadline to sign up. The majority of community college programs begin the first week of September, but there are scattered start dates throughout the semester, so students can enroll at any time.

In order to qualify for MassReconnect, students must be 25 or older on the first day of their classes and be a permanent Massachusetts resident for at least one year at the start of the enrolled term. The program is limited to residents who have not previously earned a college degree (associates or bachelor’s) who enroll in at least six credits per semester in an approved program of study leading to an associate degree or certificate at a community college.

“There’s no doubt that with MassReconnect we will be able to change the lives of each of the students who take advantage of this historic opportunity to achieve their degree,” said Secretary of Education Tutwiler. “But beyond our students, this program will also strengthen the Commonwealth’s economy and our public higher education system, By investing in our community college students, the Healey-Driscoll Administration is investing in the future of the Commonwealth.”

MassReconnect will likely support up to 6,500-8,000 community college students in the first year, which could grow to closer to 10,000 students by FY25, depending on how many students take advantage of the new opportunity. They could include current students, new students, or returning students who did not complete their degree. There are approximately 700,000 Massachusetts residents who have some college credit but no degree. MassReconnect will help bring back these students to finish their degrees, with the additional funding and support they may have been lacking the first time. 

Ortega said, “For all the Massachusetts adults out there who had to put their education on hold or didn’t have the opportunity to pursue it in the first place, now is your chance to pursue a degree or certificate to advance your career and transform your life and that of your family.”

Nationally, employees who have earned their associate degree are paid 18 percent more than workers with only a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In July, there were more than 26,000 job postings in the Commonwealth that specifically required an associate degree. MassReconnect will allow workers to earn the training and education necessary for their career growth and reinforcing the pipeline of skilled industry professionals entering the workforce.

“At Middlesex Community College, we know there are many adults 25 and over who attempted higher education and were initially unsuccessful or had to stop out for a myriad of reasons. MCC is ready to meet each learner where they are and guide them to reach their individual goals,” said Sisson. “MassReconnect enables us to reach a larger, more diverse population of students whose lives will be transformed with an education – be it a degree, certificate or industry credential. We are excited to partner on this initiative and help adults 25+ advance in their careers with our industry-guided curriculum and hands-on experiences.”

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