Boston Begins Offering Free Tuition to Low-Income Students

by | May 31, 2017 AT 12:30 PM

By Marie Szaniszlo

Low-income public, parochial and charter high school students in Boston who graduate in 2017 will be able to earn a bachelor's degree without having to pay tuition and mandatory fees under a pilot program announced yesterday.

The city and state will cover tuition and fees -- after taking into account federal Pell grants -- from the time the students enter community college to when they graduate from a four-year public college or university.

"This partnership means that a free bachelor's degree is within reach for all of Boston's low-income high school students," Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement.

Eligible students must meet federal Pell grant income standards to qualify for the tuition-free program and must enroll full-time at Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College or Mass Bay Community College. They will be required to complete their associate's degree within 2 1/2 years before transferring to a Massachusetts public college or state university.

"We hope this college affordability program will create a powerful incentive for more students to attend college full-time and complete on-time," Education Secretary James Peyser said in a statement.

Students who enroll in the program, known as The Boston Bridge, must major in a MassTransfer pathway, a subject that will ensure that credits earned in the community college they attend are accepted at any public four-year institution.

While students attend community college, the city will cover the costs for tuition and mandatory fees. Once students earn an associate's degree, they can transfer to a Massachusetts public college or university to complete their bachelor's degree within two years. While they are enrolled in a public, four-year institution, the city and the state will cover the costs for tuition and mandatory fees, excluding room and board.

The Boston Bridge builds on the city's Tuition-Free Community College initiative and the state's Commonwealth Commitment, both launched in the spring of 2016.

The program also will leverage the resources of the Success Boston College Completion Initiative, which supports students in getting to and through college by engaging a network of nonprofit and business partners to coach, mentor and employ thousands of first-generation collegegoers.

Success Boston has helped to raise the college completion rates of BPS graduates to over 50 percent, according to a recent study.

(c)2017 the Boston Herald