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State Considers Free Community Colleges

Sat., Aug. 2, 1997

While the cost of a college education keeps going up all over the country, Massachusetts is pondering a proposal to eliminate tuition altogether at its 15 community colleges.

The idea, which would need the approval of the Legislature and the governor, would make the two-year schools more accessible to the people who need them most: immigrants, minorities and the poor.

“If you or your mom and dad have a pocket full of money, you can go to a zillion places,” said James F. Carlin, chairman of the state Board of Higher Education. “If you don’t, you’ve got one choice: community college.”

According to a state report, Massachusetts’ community colleges are the second-most expensive in the nation, costing an average of $2,530 per year.

Massachusetts, which boasts an international reputation for the quality of its higher education, has been trying to lighten the economic burden, trimming tuition at community colleges by 15 percent over the last two years.

Still, the cost stretches the budgets of many of the system’s 65,000 students, nearly 25 percent of whom are minorities.

It would cost the state about $90 million a year to cover the tuition and fees of all the state’s community college students.

State education officials said they would phase the program in over five to seven years. Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci said Friday he has asked his administration to examine the proposal.


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