Starting this fall, the state is looking to provide free community college to all residents in the commonwealth.

Last week, the Massachusetts Senate unveiled MassEducate, a $75.5 million proposal to cover tuition and fees, as well as a stipend of up to $1,200 for students at a certain income level.

State Senator Jo Comerford, who represents parts of Western Massachusetts, spoke with GBH’s Morning Edition co-host Paris Alston about the bill and its chances of becoming law.

What’s in the bill: Tuition, fees and stipends

If the bill becomes law, Massachusetts would put $75.5 million towards covering tuition and fees for all residents who want to attend community college. That would be on top of existing legislation, which covers some community college tuition for all residents over the age of 25 without a college degree.

It would also offer a $1,200 stipend to any student who makes less than 125% of their area’s median income. In Boston, single people making less than about $130,000 would be eligible.

Anyone eligible for a Pell Grant would be eligible for another $1,200 stipend.

If the proposal passes, students would be eligible for the funds starting this fall.

“We understand that the total cost of going to college is more than tuition, fees, books, supplies and even a modest stipend,” Comerford said. “There are barriers still to be broken down if you want to center equity.”

Senate leaders are focusing on community colleges as ‘engines of workforce’

Comerford said she and Senate leaders want to hone in on community colleges for their potential in making education and workforce training more accessible.

She’s particularly interested, she said, in training people for jobs in health care, green tech and biotech.

“Community colleges are engines of great equity and they are engines of workforce opportunity,” she said. “So I believe we are investing because we see this opportunity to break down barriers to community colleges, which disproportionately serve students who are living currently as low income and disproportionately serve students of color.”

Funding will come from the millionaires’ tax

Funding for the proposal will come from the Fair Share Amendment, also sometimes called the millionaires' tax, an added 4 percent tax on income over $1 million that passed in 2022.

The new funding stream comes at a time when Massachusetts is facing budget issues in other areas: State leaders have announced revenue shortfalls, and Governor Maura Healey put budget cuts into place.

“I believe, in times of fiscal strife, the government is responsible for generating positive momentum through investments like this,” Comerford said.

It’s part of a larger initiative aimed at keeping people in Massachusetts

Healey has introduced her own legislation, a $3.5 billion economic development bill with workforce and housing components aimed at Massachusetts residents who are considering leaving the state because of high costs of living and more appealing opportunities elsewhere.

More access to community college could be part of that initiative, Comerford said.

“It's a real opportunity for us to go big on the sectors that Massachusetts has ID'd as the next areas for significant growth,” Comerford said. “Of course, nothing exists in a vacuum, which is why the Senate also supports investments in housing, in public transportation, in health care, all of these sectors really join together to make it possible for people not only to survive here, but to thrive here.”

What’s next: Negotiations with the State House

The Massachusetts State House does not have such legislation in its budget. That means the two legislative branches will now have to come together and work out a deal.

“I trust our Senate president and I trust our chair of ways and means, both of whom have looked at this in every dimension,” Comerford said. “Certainly the House's budget had its own priorities, and together, I believe, we'll be stronger.”