Read more about the proposal for one free year of public college in Mass.

Bill Numbers: H. 639, S. 712

Lead Sponsors: Sen. Bruce Tarr, Rep. Natalie Higgins, Rep. Sean Garballey

State support and funding for public higher education has fallen by 31% per student since 2001 in Massachusetts. Over the same time, total tuition and fees has grown by $2,500 per year at community colleges, $4,700 per year at state universities, and $5,400 per year at UMass campuses. Beyond that, half of our state’s public scholarship money goes to fund private universities where we can’t control skyrocketing costs.

That’s why a grassroots group of students, families, faculty, business leaders, unions, staff, administrators, and community members, the Public Higher Education Summit Group, developed the Finish Line Grant.

The Finish Line Grant legislation currently before the Massachusetts Legislature would put money back into our public higher education system, encourage college completion, increase college affordability and help students in need.

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What is the Finish Line Grant?

Each grant would provide one full year of tuition and fees after a student’s first year at any community college, state university, or UMass campus. The student would need to apply, have a GPA higher than 2.0, and have a household income less than twice the median household income in Massachusetts ($135,692 as of January 2017).

Who is sponsoring it now?

MA Senate

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester)*

MA House

State Rep. Sean Garballey (D – Arlington)*
State Rep. Natalie Higgins (D – Leominster)*

Full sponsors list can be found here (link).

*Lead sponsor

What organizations support the Finish Line Grant?

  • Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA)
    The Finish Line Grant is supported by faculty and staff, who know that students are having to work too many hours, and are graduating with too much debt.
  • Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM)
  • Massachusetts State Universities
  • Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office
  • UMass President Marty Meehan

Has it been tried before?

Our neighbors in New York and Rhode Island are building the fight for debt-free public higher education. As the education state, Massachusetts must lead the charge for high-quality, debt-free public higher education, and that means supporting the Finish Line Grant bill that provides real relief to students who are trying to complete their degrees.

New York

Just this January 2017, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed free public college and university tuition for students whose families make less than $125,000 a year. This is a great step towards building our movement. But Bay Staters are not followers, and we need Massachusetts to take the lead with the Finish Line Grant! (New York Times)

Rhode Island

Just two weeks after the announcement from NY, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo proposed two free years of tuition and fees at public colleges and universities in RI. We were so happy to see that our next door neighbors are leading the charge for high-quality, debt-free public higher education. (Inside Higher Ed)

What are the chances?

Support for the Finish Line Grant has grown substantially over the past two years. With your help, we believe now is the time to reverse the long-term trend of state divestment from our public higher education system.

A well-funded public higher education system is essential to defending our democracy in dangerous times. Massachusetts must lead the charge to reduce income and wealth inequality, fight for working families, and expand access to higher education.

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Full Text:

Bill H. 639 — An Act investing in public higher education

SECTION 2. Chapter 15A of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting, after section 16, the following new section:-

Section 16A. There shall be a Finish Line Scholarship Program to provide scholarships to cover the entire cost of tuition and fees for one year other than the first, in a program leading to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree at a Massachusetts public college or university. The scholarships will be available to residents of the Commonwealth in need of financial assistance whose family income is less than one hundred seventy five percent of median family income in Massachusetts.

The Department of Higher Education shall establish guidelines governing said program, which shall include but not be limited to eligibility requirements, selection criteria (such as acceptable grades and an academic plan for timely degree completion), and other guidelines designed to help meet the department’s goals, such as increasing overall student success and graduation rates, and lowering achievement gaps for high-risk students; provided, further, that no funds from this scholarship program may be used to pay the tuition or fees for any course or program offered or administered by a non-public entity and that no student shall be eligible to receive a scholarship from this program more than one time.

The funds for the program are meant to supplement and not supplant existing scholarship funds; funds for this program shall not be derived from existing financial aid programs the Commonwealth administers.

The department shall provide the Joint Committee on Higher Education of the General Court a report analyzing the usage, achievements and costs of this program, together with recommendations for its future, no later than 120 days following the program’s first year of operation.

Bill S. 712 — An Act Relative to the Finish Line Scholarship Program