Lead Sponsors: Senator Jamie Eldridge and Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry
Summary: This bill will help low-income, low-skilled adults in Massachusetts gain employment in jobs that pay family-sustaining wages by promoting programs that will increase access to education and vocational training and supporting students in successfully completing degrees or certificates.
Why This Matters: The majority of jobs that pay family-sustaining wages in Massachusetts require some form of education or training beyond a high school diploma. However, nearly half the state’s workforce doesn’t have at least an associate’s degree. Unfortunately, the steady erosion of funding for public higher education and financial aid has made it increasingly unaffordable for low-skilled working adults to obtain the education and training needed to support their families – a problem for both individual families, and the overall economic vitality of the Commonwealth.
What this Bill Would Do:
This bill would codify the Educational Rewards Grant Program, which was established to encourage and aid low-income students seeking education leading to jobs in high-demand occupations. This program is unique in allowing students to use a portion of their grants to cover living expenses and is ideal for working and/or parenting students. In particular, the bill would provide for pilot funding for student success programs to help Educational Rewards students stay in school and complete a degree or certificate.
Codifying the educational rewards grant program into law preserves the only state grant available to low-income students who are enrolled in college less than half time or participating in a non-degree program. Eligible students may receive up to $3,000 per academic year, of which 30% may be used for living expenses such as transportation and childcare.
The bill also creates a pilot program that offers supports such as intensive counseling, college and career advising, tutoring, child care, and transportation to Education Rewards students to help them complete a degree or certificate.