Mayor Walsh Launches Free Community College Program in Boston - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

Mayor Walsh Launches Free Community College Program in Boston


by Jamal Eric Watson

Roxbury Community College

Roxbury Community College

Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh has launched a new program that will provide two years of community college to low-income high school students who graduate with at least a 2.2 grade point average.

The goal, Walsh said, is to promote higher education without forcing students to be saddled with thousands of dollars in debt by taking out student loans.

“It’s really an opportunity to get kids on a pathway to success,” Walsh said. “There’s no excuse why we don’t have more kids participating in colleges, [and] in four-year colleges, once we get them through the community college process. We have a couple of great community colleges here in the city of Boston, and it’s the way to go.”

Walsh’s efforts come amid a national push by the Obama administration to make community college available to all high school seniors. Several states, including Tennessee, have already experimented with free community college for students.

“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,” Walsh said.

He added that grants would be available for students whose total family income is $50,000 or less and suspects that about 150 to 220 students will take part in the program when it launches for the first year next month.

Although the Boston region is known for its most elite colleges and universities such as Harvard, Tufts and Boston University, many low-income and first-generation students—particularly immigrants who settle in the area from other countries—pursue their academic studies at Bunker Hill Community College or Roxbury Community College.

Walsh said that his new initiative will allow students who did not do well in high school to establish a fresh start to earning their bachelor’s degree.

“A 2.2 GPA will not make you eligible for a lot of four-year colleges, and this is an opportunity to kind of pull your grades up,” Walsh said. “Me, personally, when I graduated high school I went to Quincy Junior College for a year to try and straighten out my grades … and it worked because I got into Suffolk [University].”

He said the city will use funds from the Neighborhood Jobs Trust, which is funded by fees paid by the developers of downtown construction projects, to cover the tuition payments.

“This is just the beginning,” said Dr. Tommy Chang, superintendent of the Boston Public Schools. “There is broader work to be done, but we have to make a promise to our young people that provides a pathway to a living wage. We believe that the community college is part of that.”

Chang, who arrived in Boston from Los Angeles last year to oversee the 57,000-pupil school district, said that, despite strong performance on student assessment exams, a student achievement gap continues to exist between the haves and the have-nots.

“We start segregating kids at a very young age,” he said. “That separation of kids cuts across racial, cultural and linguistic lines. We are literally tracking kids. There is an equity issue that has to be dealt with.”

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at You can follow him on twitter @jamalericwatson.

Fewer California Immigrants Seek College Aid LOS ANGELES – A significant decrease has occurred in applications for college financial aid by California students who are in the country illegally after being brought to the U.S. as young children, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. College ...
How Multiculturalism Can Make College Affordable Again One of the many challenges facing policymakers and higher education leaders is how to ensure that postsecondary degrees, as they become increasingly more important for our advanced economy and technological society, are affordable for all potential r...
National College Access Network Launches FAFSA Completion Tracker The National College Access Network (NCAN) has launched its #FormYourFuture FAFSA Tracker, giving states a week-by-week snapshot of rankings in their progress to achieve a 100-percent benchmark of high school seniors completing the Free Application f...
State of the Union Address Omitted Key Concerns in Education, Experts Note President Donald Trump President Donald J. Trump delivered his first State of the Union address since taking office, calling the current era “our new American moment.” But he missed an opportunity for substantive conversation on the growing conce...
Semantic Tags: