What is the Finish Line Grant?

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, Sen. Eileen Donoghue, Rep. Sean Garballey, Rep. Paul Mark, Rep. Natalie Higgins

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

Senator Bruce Tarr (R – Gloucester)*
– Senate Minority Leader

Senator Michael Moore (D – Second Worcester)
– Higher Education Committee Senate Chair

Senator Eileen Donoghue (D – First Middlesex)*
– Senate Vice Chair, Joint Committee on Higher Education

MA House

State Rep. John Scibak
– House Chair, Joint Committee on Higher Education

State Rep. Sean Garballey (D – Arlington)*
– House Vice Chair, Joint Committee on Higher Education

State Rep. Paul Mark (D – 2nd Berkshire)*
– Member, Joint Committee on Higher Education

State Rep. Natalie Higgins (D – Leominster)*
– Member, Joint Committee on Higher Education

Full sponsors list can be found here (link).

Paul W. Mark* 2nd Berkshire
Eileen M. Donoghue* First Middlesex
Daniel Cahill 10th Essex
Aaron Vega 5th Hampden
Chris Walsh 6th Middlesex
Jack Lewis 7th Middlesex
Michael J. Finn 6th Hampden
Mathew Muratore 1st Plymouth
Michael D. Brady Second Plymouth and Bristol
Daniel J. Hunt 13th Suffolk
Carmine L. Gentile 13th Middlesex
Jose F. Tosado 9th Hampden
Jason M. Lewis Fifth Middlesex
William Smitty Pignatelli 4th Berkshire
Jay D. Livingstone 8th Suffolk
Daniel M. Donahue 16th Worcester
Thomas J. Calter 12th Plymouth
Frank A. Moran 17th Essex
John W. Scibak 2nd Hampshire
Jay R. Kaufman 15th Middlesex
James R. Miceli 19th Middlesex
Sarah K. Peake 4th Barnstable
Denise Provost 27th Middlesex
Adrian Madaro 1st Suffolk
Frank I. Smizik 15th Norfolk
Ruth B. Balser 12th Middlesex
Lori A. Ehrlich 8th Essex
Paul McMurtry 11th Norfolk
Thomas M. Stanley 9th Middlesex
John J. Lawn, Jr. 10th Middlesex
John C. Velis 4th Hampden
Colleen M. Garry 36th Middlesex
James J. Dwyer 30th Middlesex
Sal N. DiDomenico Middlesex and Suffolk
Marjorie C. Decker 25th Middlesex
Claire D. Cronin 11th Plymouth
Kay Khan 11th Middlesex
Solomon Goldstein-Rose 3rd Hampshire
Joseph W. McGonagle, Jr. 28th Middlesex
David M. Rogers 24th Middlesex
Mike Connolly 26th Middlesex
Paul Tucker 7th Essex
Daniel J. Ryan 2nd Suffolk
Brendan P. Crighton 11th Essex
Barbara A. L’Italien Second Essex and Middlesex
Carole A. Fiola 6th Bristol
Thomas M. McGee Third Essex
Bruce J. Ayers 1st Norfolk
Carlos Gonzalez 10th Hampden
Brian M. Ashe 2nd Hampden
Patrick M. O’Connor Plymouth and Norfolk
Antonio F. D. Cabral 13th Bristol
James J. O’Day 14th Worcester
Natalie Higgins* 4th Worcester
Louis L. Kafka 8th Norfolk
Christine P. Barber 34th Middlesex
Paul R. Heroux 2nd Bristol
James M. Cantwell 4th Plymouth
Peter V. Kocot 1st Hampshire
Robert M. Koczera 11th Bristol
David Paul Linsky 5th Middlesex
Brian Murray 10th Worcester
Jennifer E. Benson 37th Middlesex
Gerard Cassidy 9th Plymouth
Jennifer L. Flanagan Worcester and Middlesex
Tricia Farley-Bouvier 3rd Berkshire
Ann-Margaret Ferrante 5th Essex
Gailanne M. Cariddi 1st Berkshire
Walter F. Timilty Norfolk, Bristol and Plymouth
Kenneth I. Gordon 21st Middlesex
Joan Meschino 3rd Plymouth
Steven Ultrino 33rd Middlesex
Mary S. Keefe 15th Worcester
Joan B. Lovely Second Essex
James B. Eldridge Middlesex and Worcester
Sean Garballey* 23rd Middlesex
Harold P. Naughton, Jr. 12th Worcester
Bud Williams 11th Hampden
Alan Silvia 7th Bristol
Tackey Chan 2nd Norfolk
John J. Mahoney 13th Worcester
James M. Murphy 4th Norfolk
Anne M. Gobi Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex
Russell E. Holmes 6th Suffolk
Michelle M. DuBois 10th Plymouth
Michael O. Moore Second Worcester
RoseLee Vincent 16th Suffolk
Stephan Hay 3rd Worcester
Linda Dean Campbell 15th Essex
Michael S. Day 31st Middlesex
Julian Cyr Cape and Islands
Jonathan D. Zlotnik 2nd Worcester
Dylan Fernandes Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket
Paul A. Schmid, III 8th Bristol
James E. Timilty Bristol and Norfolk
Kevin G. Honan 17th Suffolk
Paul Brodeur 32nd Middlesex
Stephen Kulik 1st Franklin
Joseph A. Boncore First Suffolk and Middlesex
Elizabeth A. Malia 11th Suffolk
Patricia D. Jehlen Second Middlesex
Thomas A. Golden, Jr. 16th Middlesex
Jeffrey N. Roy 10th Norfolk
James Arciero 2nd Middlesex
John H. Rogers 12th Norfolk
Jonathan Hecht 29th Middlesex

*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