In 2022, Massachusetts voters passed the Fair Share Amendment, an added tax on annual income over $1 million, with the new revenue intended for education and transportation. Now, Gov. Maura Healey has announced the details of one of the many state budget wins for students and education: All Pell Grant-eligible students at Massachusetts public colleges and universities will attend for free. The expanded MASSGrant Plus program will cover fees, tuition, and a $1,200 allowance for books and supplies for those students.
About one-third of UMass students and 40% of students at Salem State University are Pell Grant-eligible and will be attending college for free—retroactive to the start of the current semester.
“That funding makes the difference between having to stress about paying for an electric bill, books, campus fees, registration fees and not having that worry,” UMass Amherst senior Caitlyn Fair told The Boston Globe. “It will take away so much anxiety and stress from my life and the lives of other students in my situation.” Fair told the Globe she will graduate with about $40,000 in student debt and that her brother decided against a four-year college for financial reasons, highlighting just how big this new aid is.
“This is a very big step because the expense of education right now is affecting how many people can go to school,” UMass Boston junior Dorah Pierre-Louis told the Globe. “We’re missing a lot of brilliant minds in higher education just because people can’t afford to go.”
Similarly, Massachusetts Teachers Association President Max Page noted this as a win for equity, saying in a statement, “With the U.S. Supreme Court overturning federal affirmative action last June, the expanded MassGRANT Plus will help make public colleges and universities more diverse by knocking down financial barriers that have been preventing BIPOC students and working-class students from pursuing higher education.”
Free college for Pell Grant-eligible students isn’t all. Full-time students in families with incomes of $73,000 to $100,000 won’t have their tuition and fees fully covered, but they will see costs reduced by up to half of their out-of-pocket expenses. Additional Fair Share Amendment money will go toward state financial aid for undocumented immigrant students.
Massachusetts voters made this possible with their 2022 vote, and the results are a strong reminder: Democrats can and should do big things.
We talk about North Carolina non-stop on “The Downballot,” so it’s only natural that our guest on this week’s episode is Anderson Clayton, the new chair of the state Democratic Party. Clayton made headlines when she became the youngest state party chair anywhere in the country at the age of 25, and the story of how she got there is an inspiring one. But what she’s doing—and plans to do—is even more compelling. Her focus is on rebuilding the party infrastructure from the county level up, with the aim of reconnecting with rural Black voters who’ve too often been sidelined and making young voters feel like they have a political home. Plus: her long-term plan to win back the state Supreme Court.