Massachusetts Governor’s Budget Proposal Includes Free Community College

An estimated 1.8 million people could benefit from the governor’s proposed MassReconnect program.
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  • The proposed $20 million MassReconnect program would make community college free for residents over 25 years old.
  • Gov. Maura Healey has been pushing for this program since before taking office, and her budget proposal makes it official.
  • Democrats control the state House, Senate, and governorship in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts is poised to be the next state to make free community college a reality.

Gov. Maura Healey, a Democrat elected in 2022, announced Wednesday that her first budget proposal includes $20 million to create the MassReconnect program. This program would make community college free for Massachusetts residents over 25 years old who don’t already have a degree or college credential.

MassReconnect promises to go beyond just helping students pay for tuition, according to state leaders.

“With help paying for tuition, course funding, books and supplies, and career wrap-around support services, over 1.8 million Massachusetts residents would have the financial flexibility they need to continue their education,” Massachusetts Secretary of Labor Lauren Jones said on Wednesday.

Nearly 700,000 Massachusetts residents have some college but no degree, Healey added. MassReconnect may give them another chance to earn their diploma.

Free community college was a centerpiece of Healey’s bid for the governorship in 2022. She laid the groundwork during her initial months in office by publicizing the initial details of MassReconnect before releasing her budget proposal.

Healey’s proposal fits a trend of governors spotlighting their state’s community colleges and career and technical education (CTE) courses.

According to the Campaign for Free College Tuition, 32 states have some form of free college. However, only nine have what the Campaign describes as a “statewide free college tuition program enacted with few eligibility limits.”

MassReconnect would likely make Massachusetts the 10th state to fit that description.

Democrats control the governorship and have an overwhelming majority in the state House of Representatives and Senate. This means Healey likely has an easy path to make MassReconnect a reality through the fiscal year 2024 budget.

Senate President Karen Spilka said in January that she believes it is "beyond time" to make community college free.

The state’s current legislative session started on Jan. 4 and lasts until Nov. 15.