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Free college plan gets UMass president’s stamp of approval


A plan by the state’s new governor to provide free community college to some residents has a powerful supporter after the president of the UMass system said this week he is on board with the idea.

“I’m a big supporter of community college, we take a lot of the transfer students, I like the governor’s proposal,” UMass President Marty Meehan said.

Meehan, speaking with hosts Sharman Sacchetti and Ed Harding during WCVB’s Sunday Politics show On The Record, said a plan recently put forward by Gov. Maura Healey makes sense considering the large number of adults in the state that have some college training but not enough to earn a potentially income altering diploma.

“We have a million people in Massachusetts who have some college credit but haven’t gotten an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree,” he said. “There is a real need, because folks are in the workforce that don’t have a degree.”

According to Meehan, the data is “overwhelming” in showing the staggering difference that degree makes.

“If you have an associate’s degree, during the course of a lifetime, you’re going to make a half-a-million dollars more,” he said.

Meehan’s comments come following Healey’s inaugural declaration that her budget would include the funds required to pay for sending all those workers back to school.

“In my first budget, I will create and fund a new program called MassReconnect. This will offer free community college to students over 25 who don’t have a college degree. We’ll also enhance early college opportunities and increase funding to our state university system so everyone can afford a higher degree,” she said in early January.

Meehan said he spoke to Healey about the idea of more support for the state’s college system during her campaign for the corner office and that he met with her new Secretary of Education, Patrick Tutwiler, just this week.

“She’s very supportive of public higher education,” Meehan said. “I think she wants to roll up her sleeves.”

The state Senate’s President, Ashland Democrat Karen Spilka, has signaled she is in favor of a similar plan, but has openly wondered at the governor’s choice to set an age restriction.

Healey is expected to file her first budget by March 1.


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