Mayor Michelle Wu and US Rep. Ayanna Pressley visit Bunker Hill Community College. PHOTO: ANNA LAMB
US Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu came together last week to celebrate a $1 million boost to the city’s tuition-free community college program introduced by the congresswoman in March.
At a May 4 event held at Bunker Hill Community College, the elected officials were joined by BHCC President Pam Eddinger and BHCC students as they reflected on the impact of the new money to help create opportunities for hundreds of students.
“Funding like this goes not only to the students, but to the families and neighborhoods that they are part of,” Wu said at the event.
In March, Pressley secured millions in federal funding for Boston as part of a government spending package that passed Congress and was signed into law by President Biden. In addition to the free community college program, job programs and substance abuse programs also gained new funding.
As part of the free tuition program, Boston residents who have received their high school credential (diploma, HiSET, or GED) or plan to within 18 months of application, have a grade-point average of at least 2.0, and require no more than three developmental courses by the start of the semester can apply to have up to three years of college or an associate degree paid for.
The program is income-restricted — students must have a household income eligible for a Pell Grant per the FAFSA federal student aid guidelines, and have low to moderate household income per HUD guidelines. The program covers any remaining tuition or mandatory fees after the Pell Grant has been applied. The funding also will cover $250 each semester for up to three years for college-related expenses, such as books or transportation.
Funding can be used at Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College, Massasoit Community College, MassBay Community College, Urban College of Boston and Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.
The free tuition program was first started in 2016 under Mayor Martin Walsh and has been run by the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development using funds from the Neighborhood Jobs Trust. The million-dollar boost will add hundreds of spots to the latest class able to take advantage.
“Expanding this program will serve a critical need within our community by helping more students achieve their goals of earning a college degree,” Pressley said at last week’s event.
According to Wu, the city has already received more than 200 applications for the fall 2022 semester.
At BHCC, Pressley also took the opportunity to make the case that the new funding will “help us address the college affordability crisis as we continue making the case for President Biden to cancel student debt by executive action.”
Pressley, in conjunction with other progressive lawmakers such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, have continued to call on the president to cancel student debt, including introducing legislation to forgive up to $50,000 in loans. Canceling some portion of student debt was a campaign promise by the president that has yet to materialize.
Pressley and other elected officials hope that in the meantime, the community college tuition program can help a cohort of struggling students.
“I’m so grateful to Mayor Wu, Mayor Janey, President Eddinger and our students for their close partnership in making this important investment a reality,” she said Wednesday.
Those interested in applying for the tuition-free community college program can do so online at owd.boston.gov/tfcc.