Baker, Walsh announce tuition-free college pilot program

AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Martin J. Walsh have announced a tuition-free college program.

The Republican governor and the Democratic mayor on Monday launched the new college affordability program for Boston high school graduates, enabling low-income students to complete four-year degrees without paying tuition or mandatory fees.

The program, called The Boston Bridge, will be open to all 2017 high school graduates who live in the city.

The commonwealth and the city said they’ll cover students’ tuition and fees. They’ll take federal Pell grants into account.

Baker said college affordability “too often serves as a barrier” for students seeking degrees. He said the new program is intended to provide “more opportunities for a quality education.”

Walsh said the partnership means “a free bachelor’s degree is within reach” for low-income students.

To qualify for the tuition-free program, eligible students must meet federal Pell grant income standards and enroll full time at Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College or Mass Bay Community College.

The students will be required to complete their associates’ degrees within two and a half years before transferring to state public colleges or state universities.

The new tuition-free college program builds on Boston’s Tuition Free Community College initiative and the state’s Commonwealth Commitment, which were launched last year.

Walsh said in a statement that since launching the city’s program last year “we have helped fifty Boston Public Schools graduates attend community college.”
State Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago said The Boston Bridge program was built “to take students all the way from high school to college commencement.”

“Our message to students is clear — 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,” he said in a statement.