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Boston Rolls out tuition-free community college plan

The City of Boston rolled out a tuition-free community college plan for Boston Public Schools (BPS), providing a cost-effective entry point into higher education for Boston’s young people.Mayor Marty Walsh announced on Friday that the program is expected to be available at all BPS high schools beginning June 1.

“The single most effective way to break down the social and financial barriers facing many Boston families is to make post-secondary education free and accessible.” – Boston Mayor Marty Walsh

 “I am so proud to launch this program and give our talented BPS graduates another resource for success.”

According to the release from the Mayor’s office, the program that has already launched at Madison Park Vocational-Technical High School, will be run through the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development (OWD). It will be supported and funded by the City’s Neighborhood Jobs Trust (NJT) which collects linkage fees from large-scale commercial developments in the city.

“This enormously helpful initiative is breaking barriers by increasing access to quality higher education for our students,” said BPS Superintendent Tommy Chang. “This is an example of a wonderful partnership that truly provides a path to help students succeed in college, career, and life.”

A report by the Boston Foundation revealed that students with grant assistance were far more likely to stay enrolled through the first two years of college. Statistics showed that only 15 percent of 2007 BPS graduates attending two-year colleges graduated, with 40% of enrollees dropping out after the first year.

The multi-tiered initiative puts foundational support services in place including bridge programs, dual enrollments and remedial classes. It also reaches beyond the classroom to connect students with employment opportunities, career navigation services, and financial aid for completing post-secondary education.

Eligibility criteria was explained in the release. To be eligible, students must graduate from a BPS high school with at least a 2.2 GPA, be able to complete community college on a two-year schedule, meet low-income status for Pell Grants, complete the FASFA, pass the accuplacer to place out of developmental classes, and gain admission to either Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) or Roxbury Community College (RCC).

“Education is an essential part of preparing a competitive workforce for the City of Boston,” said Trinh Nguyen, Director of the OWD. “Leveraging our community colleges, partners, and federal resources will help students, parents, and families obtain their career aspirations. College shouldn’t be limited to those who can afford it.”

Mayor Walsh’s announcement brought kudos from Dr. Jill Biden. The wife of Vice President Joe Biden took to Twitter to add her support. “Big news in Boston!” tweeted Dr. Biden. “Thank you @Marty_Walsh for leading the way on #FreeCommunityCollege! #HeadsUpAmerica —Jill,” read the tweet.

This article originally appeared on Examiner.com on May 1, 2016. 

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