Northern Essex Community College’s Glenn Welcomes Healey Plan for Free Community College

Northern Essex Community College President Lane A. Glenn. (WHAV News photograph.)

State-paid public education, which got its formal start in the 1830s in Massachusetts, could be extended past high school and through community college.

Gov. Maura T. Healey filed her proposed state budget Wednesday, calling for $20 million to pay for, what she calls, the “MassReconnect” program. Healey, who made the announcement at Bunker Hill Community College in Charlestown, said the program would cover the cost of community college for all Massachusetts residents aged 25 or older without an equivalent credential. Northern Essex Community College President Lane A. Glenn welcomed the plan.

“The MassReconnect program is just what hundreds of thousands of adults in Massachusetts who started college and have not yet been able to complete their degrees need to help them cross that finish line, and it’s just what the state’s employers need to help them fill in-demand jobs in our workforce. NECC is already creating a new Center for Adult Academic Pathways and we look forward to welcoming these students back to campus,” Glenn told WHAV.

Nate Mackinnon, executive director, Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges, added in a statement, “While Massachusetts boasts the most educated population in the country, there are roughly 1.8 million individuals across the Commonwealth aged 25 and up who have a high school diploma or equivalent, but no higher education credential…MassReconnect opens the doors to a college education for adults across the Commonwealth while simultaneously helping to build a skilled workforce pipeline for industries across the state.”

The Healey Administration said MassReconnect can help bring back students who have received some college credit but did not finish their degree. As of July 2020, nearly 696,000 Massachusetts residents had some college credit but no degree—the majority of whom are over 25.

Free community college is aimed at Massachusetts residents who are 25 years old and older and have not yet earned a college degree or industry credential. It would offer students “last-dollar financial support to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies as well as provide funding for career and wraparound support services to encourage retention and degree-completion.”

Healey and Lt. Gov. Kimberley Driscoll said the proposed budget, includes several other investments in education and workforce development programs, such as Early College and Innovation Pathways, the Community College SUCCESS fund, the Healthcare Worker Training and AFL-CIO Workforce Development programs, Career Technical Institutes and Registered Apprenticeship Programs.

“Workforce shortages have impacted nearly all sectors of our economy, but we have an incredible opportunity before us to train the next generation of workers and increase opportunities for all,” said Healey. “More students than ever before will be able to advance or complete their educations and set themselves up for a successful career in in-demand industries like health care, engineering, advanced manufacturing and tech.”

Besides $20 million for the program, the budget envisions $46.9 million for Early College and Innovation Pathways; $18 million for the Community College SUCCESS fund, which awards grants to community colleges to provide supports and services to improve outcomes for vulnerable populations, such as low-income, first-generation, minority and disabled students and LGBTQ+ students; $17.9 million to support Career Technical Institutes, which help close skills training gaps by expanding access to vocational education; $5 million for Registered Apprenticeship Programs; $1.15 million for the Healthcare Worker Training and AFL-CIO Workforce Development programs; $ 16.2 million for Youthworks, subsidizing wages for summer jobs for at-risk youth and encouraging career development for 14- to 25-year-olds to reduce juvenile delinquency and young adult homelessness.

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