An estimated 25,000 Massachusetts college students will receive free tuition to any public college as a result of a new tax on the state's highest earners, Gov. Maura Healey announced Wednesday.
State officials will make $62 million available to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books and supplies for low and middle income college students beginning this semester. The aid will be available to full and part-time students attending any public college, whether a community college, a regional state university or the University of Massachusetts' flagship campus in Amherst.
“For so many Massachusetts residents, higher education can be the ticket to their future career and economic stability,” Healey said in a statement following an announcement at Salem State University. “Far too many people are held back from pursuing the education of their choice because of high costs.”
The program, known as the MASSGrant Plus Expansion program, is open to full and part-time students who come from families with an annual income of $40,000 or less. Full-time students from families with incomes between $73,000 and $100,000, are expected to see their out-of-pocket costs reduced by up to half, officials said.
The funding does not cover students' housing costs, which have spiked in recent decades. But many described the aid as a game changer.
Chris Gabrieli, chair of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, said the new investment will make “college truly affordable" and reduce student debt.
“This is a big deal for access and affordability in Massachusetts,” he said. “This is a great day for equity and opportunity through higher education.”
Massachusetts Teachers Association President Max Page also applauded the expansion of aid.
“This is a major step forward in the fight for educational equity, making it possible for more low-income and middle-income students than ever before to seek out, and complete, their higher education degrees right here in the Bay State,” Page said in a statement. “This will benefit our economy and communities by making it possible for young people growing up in Massachusetts to stay here, find good jobs here and make their homes here.”
Officials said the program is retroactive to fall 2023, so students who are currently enrolled could qualify for relief.
Earlier this year, the Legislature passed another one of Healey's educational priorities — a $20 million free community college program designed for adult students over age 25.