CHARLESTOWN, Mass. — Governor Maura T. Healey and Lieutenant Governor Kimberley Driscoll announced that their Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget will include funding to create the MassReconnect program, which will cover the cost of community college for all Massachusetts resident aged 25 or older without an equivalent credential.
The budget’s funding, announced at Bunker Hill Community College, also 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 Governor Healey. “The MassReconnect program, as well as the other investments in education and workforce development that we call for in our budget, will be transformative for hundreds of thousands of our residents. 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.”
The budget (H. 1) includes $20 million for the creation of MassReconnect, a new program that will support Massachusetts residents who are 25 years old and older and who 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.
The MassReconnect program would give more than 1.8 million residents who have a high school diploma or equivalency, many of whom are students of color, the financial flexibility to consider advancing their education without having to worry about incurring unaffordable debt. It can also 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.
H.1 proposes $46.9 million for Early College and Innovation Pathways, a $14.4 million expansion over FY23. This investment will expand opportunities for high school students across the Commonwealth to explore college and career pathways before graduating high school. The Early College program under this budget would provide approximately 18,122 students in the 2023-2024 school year the opportunity to earn up to 12 college credits before graduating, and the Innovation Pathways will enroll approximately 10,194 students in coursework across priority industries including IT, engineering, healthcare, life sciences and advanced manufacturing.
H.1 makes a number of other investments in education and workforce development programs that will help more students access the skills they need to get a job in today’s economy. These include:
- $18 million, an increase of $4 million, for the Community College SUCCESS fund, which awards grants to community colleges to provide wraparound supports and services to improve outcomes for their most 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, quadrupling the investment to continue thousands of placements for registered apprentices in fiscal year 2024, building on the Governor’s proposed expansion of the apprenticeship tax credit. This is a $4 million increase from FY23.
- $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 facilitating career development for 14- to 25-year-olds to reduce juvenile delinquency and young adult homelessness. At this level, Youthworks anticipates connecting approximately 3,600 youth with employment during the summer and school year.