In The People's Blog

On Monday, May 20, the Massachusetts Senate opened its debate on the fiscal year (FY) 2025 budget proposal. 

As part of the opening day of debate, I offered remarks on the historic investments included in the budget that usher in a beautiful era in public higher education in Massachusetts. 

Watch my full remarks here:

Read on for my full remarks. 


The word of the day is bold. Before us is a budget that takes enormous, bold leaps in making the Commonwealth a better place for all of us –  from cradle to career. 


I specifically want to highlight the higher ed provisions of the budget. 

First, I want to thank Department of Higher Ed Commissioner Noe Ortega and the Department of Higher Education team. You are steadfast partners.

The historic investments proposed today send a clear message to all people in Massachusetts. It’s the same message you can read on a banner at Greenfield Community College in my district — You belong here.

The state wants to invest in you and your future.

With this budget, the Senate continues to double down on building back the power and promise of public higher education — a commitment to the state’s students, families, and all who are living and working in the Commonwealth. 

With this budget, the Senate demonstrates an understanding of this truth: Public higher education is our state’s greatest equity engine.

It is also our greatest economic engine.

Our workforce needs are holding back our economy and the Commonwealth’s public higher education institutions have the key — producing thousands of skilled and capable Massachusetts students who are disproportionately likely to stay in the state to begin their careers, pursue their dreams — and all that flows from there.


This budget provides over $2 billion in investments to expand equitable access to public higher education — including:

  • $760.5 million for the University of Massachusetts system; 
  • More than $381 million for 15 community colleges;
  • More than $370 million for nine state universities;
  • $175 million for financial aid, including $5 million for Early Educator Scholarships to develop our early ed workforce;
  • $5 million for the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative to support students with intellectual disabilities with increased access to higher education opportunities;
  • $15 million for Early College programs and $13.1 million for the state’s Dual Enrollment initiative, both of which provide high school students with increased opportunities for post-graduate success. 


The plan that undergirds these investments is MassEducate.


And the centerpiece is free tuition and fees for all Massachusetts residents who want to attend one of the state’s 15 community colleges.  

In addition to tuition and fees, MassEducate includes a $1,200 annual stipend to cover books, supplies, and other education expenses

For students who are currently low-income and who receive federal Pell Grants, MassEducate offers an additional stipend, bringing the total to $2,400 for Pell-eligible students.

This builds on the successful MassReconnect program, initiated by Governor Healey, and the Senate’s free nursing programs initiative which — in just one year — have been responsible for an 8 percent enrollment increase at Massachusetts community colleges — unequivocally reversing a previous, debilitating downward trend.


In addition, MassEducate slashes the cost of attending a 4-year public higher education institution — for both State Universities and UMass campuses.

Right now – with the current Senate-led investment, 25,000 Massachusetts students who are currently low and lower-middle income are attending Massachusetts higher education institutions for free — tuition, fees, books, supplies. Free. Thanks to a program called MassGrant Plus.

The budget provides an additional $25 million for MassGrant Plus which will expand the number of students supported by this life-changing program.


MassEducate also fully-funds the SUCCESS Program: the wildly successful and aptly-named SUCCESS program supports community college students who are facing the most significant systemic barriers — providing targeted, tailored services like mentoring, academic skills, coaching, and peer mentoring to low income, immigrant, first-generation students, and students of color. 

Most recent research indicates that students in the program had a 16-percentage point increase in completion rates compared to peers who were not in the program. 

The MassEducate plan provides $18 million for SUCCESS.


Going even further, MassEducate creates the Student Persistence Fund, offering extra help to low-income students who face needs like childcare and food insecurity or short-term housing needs that can be barriers to success at school and graduation.

$10 million dedicated to strengthening students’ ability to persist and complete.

It’s a downpayment on the Senate’s understanding that we must address the total cost of college, especially for the students living with the lowest incomes.


MassEducate also creates a clear, seamless pathway for transfers between two and four-year institutions — serving students wherever they go.

Thank you to the gentleman from Worcester who has long called us to strengthen MassTransfer.


Finally, this budget — and MassEducate — launches a fast-paced task force to further improve the quality and affordability of higher education in the Commonwealth across the entire 29-campus ecosystem.


Are we finished? Absolutely not.

The Senate is aware that deferred maintenance on college campuses has reached a blistering $6 billion. 

We are aware that salaries for faculty and staff — especially at community colleges — are far, far too low. 

We know there are still too many barriers to entering college and that there are costs of college beyond tuition, fees, books and supplies.

So we’ll keep pushing forward, guided by an enduring commitment to equity — to ensure that Massachusetts is a state where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Investing today means a brighter future for all, tomorrow.


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