Proposal would help cover college costs for in-state students

Proposed bill would give most in-state students one year of free college

Holyoke Community College Campus Center as of December of 2016. (Image Courtesy: Holyoke Community College)

BOSTON (WWLP) – Some lawmakers are pushing to give Massachusetts students one year of free college. But the proposal is drawing controversy over eligibility and funding.

The state’s Higher Education Committee is currently reviewing a bill to provide Massachusetts students with one full year of free tuition and fees at the state’s public two-year and four-year colleges.

State Representative Natalie Higgins told 22News that “Public higher education and a college degree is even more important in being stable in the economy.”

One sponsor of the bill told 22News the plan would cost the state an estimated $150 million to 200 million if every student elected to take it in the first year of eligibility. But where’s the money coming from?

Supporters of the bill hope to tap into two potential new revenue sources: One is a 4 percent tax increase on Massachusetts millionaires, known as the Fair Share Amendment, which is expected to come before voters on the 2018 ballot. The other is a surtax on higher education endowments.

Eligibility is capped at twice the median family household income, which one lawmaker estimates would account for 80 percent of Massachusetts families.