Boston Becomes the Latest City to Offer Free College Tuition to Residents

Free college tuition
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Over the last few years, several U.S. states have announced plans to offer free college tuition to students.

The plans are part of an effort to make a college education more accessible while simultaneously lightening the (heavy, heavy) load of student loans.

Then, earlier this year, a city followed suit: San Francisco began offering residents full-time and part-time college funding regardless of that person’s income.

On Tuesday, it was announced that Boston will be the latest locale to provide its residents with a free college education (and unlike Silly Bandz and fidget spinners, this is a trend we can get on board with).

Bridging the Gap with Free College Tuition

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker announced the college affordability pilot program, named the Boston Bridge. The program will be available to all high school students in the graduating class of 2017 who live within the city of Boston and attend public, charter or parochial schools.

Baker pointed out “college affordability too often serves as a barrier for students in the Commonwealth seeking to complete a degree” and that “this program is intended to provide more opportunities for a quality education.”

How It Works

To qualify for the Boston Bridge program, students must meet the federal Pell grant income limits and be enrolled full-time at one of three Boston area community colleges: Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College or Mass Bay Community College.

Students will then be required to complete their associate’s degrees within two-and-a-half years before they can transfer to a Massachusetts state university or public college.

The program was designed with time, school and degree restrictions to encourage more students to make it all the way to graduation.

State Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago had a clear message for students: “if you commit the time and do the work, we’ll be beside you every step of the way to help you complete your college journey while avoiding burdensome debt.”

The city will cover students’ tuition and fees, after deducting any Pell grants or discounted tuition through another program, at community colleges. At four-year schools, the city and the state will split the cost of tuition.

The Boston Bridge program is actually a build-out of two prior iterations, Boston’s Tuition Free Community College program and the Commonwealth Commitment. Both programs had an underwhelming response from the community, but are still in place today and hope to attract more students in the future.

Either way, we hope to see more programs like these in the future — because while we love a good student loan success story, wouldn’t it be nice if young people didn’t have to accumulate mountains of debt in the first place?

Grace Schweizer is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder.