Healey budgets for free community college

By STEVE LeBLANC

Associated Press

Published: 03-01-2023 6:07 PM

BOSTON — Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey is unveiling her first state budget proposal Wednesday, a spending plan that could offer insight into the Democrat’s priorities during her first year as the state’s chief executive.

One of those priorities is Healey’s campaign promise to cover the cost of community college for all Massachusetts residents aged 25 years old and older who have not yet earned a college degree or industry credential.

“We have an incredible opportunity before us to train the next generation of workers and increase opportunities for all,” said Healey, who outlined the program Wednesday morning during a stop at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston.

The program would offer students financial support to help cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies as well as provide funding for career and support services, according to Healey.

The $20 million proposal, which Healey dubbed MassReconnect during her campaign last year, would also include investments in other education and workforce development programs and apprenticeship initiatives.

Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka has called for the state to make community college free for all students.

Healey said her proposal would give more than 1.8 million Massachusetts residents who have a high school diploma or equivalency the financial flexibility to further their education without worrying about crushing debt.

As of July 2020, nearly 696,000 Massachusetts residents had some college credit but no degree, most of them over 25, according to the administration.

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Healey is expected to detail the rest of her budget plan Wednesday afternoon.

The release of Healey’s full budget proposal kicks off the long process of crafting a final state budget for the 2024 fiscal year that begins July 1 — a process that includes the House and Senate crafting their own budget plans before settling on a compromise to send back to Healey for her signature.

On Monday, Healey unveiled a $742 million tax relief proposal that she said would provide savings for families, renters, seniors and others. That separate proposal includes changes Healey said would make Massachusetts a more attractive place to live and work. It will also be filed with lawmakers Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, House lawmakers planned to debate Healey’s $282 million supplemental spending plan that includes $85 million for the state’s emergency assistance program and other services for eligible families in need of shelter. The House is expected to add to the bill.

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