Healey’s budget proposal features workforce development investments

(The Center Square) – A new program would be created in Massachusetts through the fiscal year 2024 budget proposal that would help nontraditional students earn workforce credentials.

Freshman Democratic Gov. Maura Healey said Wednesday the MassReconnect program would be funded through the fiscal year 2024 budget proposal, if enacted. The program would cover the cost of community college for state residents ages 25 and older who currently do not hold an equivalent workforce credential.

The proposed budget would fully fund the program and feature investments in education and workforce development aimed at Early College and Innovation Pathways, the Community College SUCCESS fund, the Healthcare Worker Training, and AFL-CIO Workforce Development Programs. Additionally, the program will include the Career Technical Institutes and Registered Apprenticeship programs.

“Workforce shortages have impacted nearly all sectors of our economy, but we have an incredible opportunity before us to train the next generation of workers and increase opportunities for all,” Healey said in a statement. “The MassReconnect program, as well as the other investments in education and workforce development that we call for in our budget, will be transformative for hundreds of thousands of our residents. More students than ever before will be able to advance or complete their educations and set themselves up for a successful career in in-demand industries like health care, engineering, advanced manufacturing and tech.”

House Bill 1, the governor’s proposed budget, will be filed Wednesday afternoon and features a $20 million investment in the MassReconnect program. The program is designed to provide financial support for tuition, fees, and books and supplies, in addition to providing career and wraparound support services aimed at retention and education completion, according to a release.

The program, according to the release, is designed to assist 1.8 million residents already possessing a high school diploma or equivalency, the ability to advance their education without having to worry about student loan debt. Nearly 696,000 residents, as of July 2020, had earned some college credits but no degree.

Dr. Pam Edinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College, said the funding will help eliminate financial barriers to prospective students.

“We see far too often how cost is major barrier for students, especially adult students, many with family obligations, to begin and finish their educations,” Eddinger said in a statement. “The MassReconnect Program will be a gamechanger for community colleges and hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents.”

The proposed budget, according to the release, would put $46.9 million into the Early College and Innovation Pathways, which is a $14.4 million increase from last year. The program during the 2023-24 school year would assist 18,122 students earn up to 12 college credits before graduation. The Innovation Pathways would enroll 10,194 students in course spanning IT, engineering, healthcare, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing.

The bill, if enacted, would place $18 million into the Community College SUCCESS fund; $17.9 million to support Career Technical Institutes; and $5 million into the Registered Apprenticeships program. Another $1.15 million would be placed in the Healthcare Worker Training and AFL-CIO Workforce development programs.