What is the Tuition-Free Community College Plan?

  • Mayor Walsh launched the Tuition-Free Community College Plan to make college more affordable for eligible Boston residents who have earned their high school credential. By reducing college cost, the City of Boston aims to enable more students to achieve the life-long benefits of college, with less financial stress. The plan is administered by the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development.

    Who can sign up for the Tuition-Free Community College Plan? 

    To enroll for tuition-free college, you must:

    • Be a Boston resident
    • Receive your high school credential (diploma, HiSET, or GED) within 12 months of starting the plan
    • Have a grade-point average of at least 2.0*
    • Be eligible for a Pell Grant, as determined by the FAFSA
    • Require no more than three developmental courses by the start of the semester
    • Have low to moderate household income, per HUD guidelines 

    * Does not apply to HiSET/GED completers

    Some categories of non-US Citizens are eligible for full or partial support through the plan. See the frequently asked questions below for more details. 

    Which colleges does the plan pay for?

    Please note that BFIT is a public-private partnership with its own customized eligibility requirements. Read on to learn which costs are covered for which students at which schools. 

    Which costs are covered at the community colleges?

    For students who do not receive full Pell coverage, the Tuition-Free Community College Plan covers the remaining tuition and mandatory fees for up to three years of community college.

    For students whose tuition and fees are already fully paid by the Pell grant, the Tuition-Free Community College Plan currently provides up to $1,000 for college-related expenses, such as books or transportation. (To receive full Pell coverage means you have an Expected Family Contribution of $0.) The $1,000 for college expenses will be dispersed over three semesters: $500 in the first semester, $250 in the second, $250 in the third. Funds for college-related expenses may be limited annually for new students, so check back for updates.

    Which costs are covered at BFIT?

    Some Tuition-Free Community College Plan students may be eligible for funding to attend Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology (BFIT). For those students who receive full Pell coverage and who are accepted to attend BFIT, the school will pay up to three years of remaining tuition and mandatory fees (excluding automotive fees). The Tuition-Free Community College Plan will currently also provide up to $1,000 to cover college-related expenses for these students. 

    What else does the plan provide?

    Students enrolled in the Tuition-Free Community College Plan may be paired with a Success Boston coach. These coaches can help you make a successful transition to college, stay on track to finish coursework toward your degree, and help guide you through life’s ups and downs. 

    What are the application deadlines?

    The application for the Spring 2020 semester will be open Nov. 1 - Dec. 8, 2019. The application for the Fall 2020 semester will be available in April 2020.

    Frequently Asked Questions  

    Q: Are non-US citizens eligible to apply?

    A: Some non-citizens are eligible for Pell grants, and these students are eligible for the Tuition-Free Community College Plan. To determine if you are an “eligible noncitizen,” see sections 1 through 5 on the US Department of Education website.

    Some other categories of non-citizens who are not eligible for Pell grants are still eligible for some support through the Tuition-Free Community College Plan. These categories include DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), TPS (Temporary Protected Status), “U” visa holders, beneficiaries of “withholding of removal” status, and any other non-citizens who are eligible for in-state tuition at public community colleges in Massachusetts. For more information on these categories, see Section 2 of General Higher Education Rights of Immigrants in Massachusetts. Under the Tuition-Free Community College Plan, these students will be eligible to receive a grant amount equal to the cost of in-state tuition (not including mandatory fees).

    If you are in one of the above categories and want to be considered for this program, please email TuitionFree@boston.gov and a representative from the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development will be in touch to determine your eligibility.  

    Q: Are BPS Adult Diploma graduates eligible to apply?

    A: Yes, BPS adult diploma graduates may apply for the Tuition-Free Community College Plan. 

    Q: Are former high school graduates eligible for the plan?

    A: Students must begin the Tuition-Free Community College Plan within one year of earning their high school credential.

    Q: Will I still be eligible for the Tuition-Free Community College Plan if I don't go to college right away?

    A: To be eligible for the plan, you must start college within one year of completing your high school credential.

    Q: What are the mandatory fees covered by the plan?

    A: At all of the eligible community colleges, the mandatory per-credit general course fee and technology fee are covered. At RCC, the mandatory per-semester operations fee, registration fee, and student activities fee are also covered. Please note that health insurance is not considered a mandatory fee. However, if you are a low-income student, you may be able to remain on MassHealth while you attend community college. See the relevant Health Connector page for more guidance.

    Q: What if I don't know my GPA?

    A: That's OK. You do not need to know your GPA to fill out the Tuition-Free Community College Plan application. After you have applied, your high school will confirm your GPA for you with the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development. So you know, though, a 2.0 GPA is equivalent to a C average. If you think that your grades in high school will average out to a C or higher, you are probably eligible. If you are unsure, it is still worth applying in case your GPA does meet the requirement.

    Q: Does it matter when I take classes during the three years I'm eligible for funding?

    A: Once you start receiving Tuition-Free Community College Plan funds, you must take classes every Fall and Spring semester. If you take a semester off, you will be no longer eligible. However, the number and kind of classes you take each semester are up to you and your academic adviser. Keep in mind that associate degrees require a minimum of 60 college credits. To stay on schedule to receive your degree within three years, you should take at least 10 college credits per semester. The important thing to remember is that you have three calendar years from the time you start the plan to finish your degree. Success Boston can help you stay on track.

    Q: How do I know if I need developmental classes?

    A: When you are admitted to a college, you will make arrangements with your school to take its college placement testing, which will include the Accuplacer test. Your scores in different testing subjects (such as reading, math, or writing) determine whether you may start taking college-level classes or should be placed in a developmental class or classes first. Developmental classes are "refresher" courses that do not bear college credit toward graduation requirements. Note that if your college placement testing shows you must take ESL classes, these are considered developmental classes for purposes of Tuition-Free Community College Plan eligibility.

    Q: What if the college placement testing shows I need more than three developmental classes?

    A: There's still hope! Remember: To be eligible for the Tuition-Free Community College Plan, you must need no more than three developmental classes by the start of the semester. So for example: If you take college placement testing in June and learn that you need four developmental classes, you may be able to take one of those classes in the summer. If you pass, you will be able to start the semester needing no more than three developmental classes.

    Q: What are HUD income guidelines?

    A: HUD income guidelines ensure that applicants come from low- to moderate-income households. Most students who are eligible for Pell grants will also meet the HUD income guidelines, which are determined by household size and income. This information will be identified in your FAFSA.

    Q: Once I am accepted in the plan, how do I maintain eligibility?

    A: To remain eligible, you will need to make "satisfactory academic progress," according to your college's definition.The BHCC definition, Massasoit definition, MassBay definition are slightly different, but each takes such factors into account as GPA, class completion, and rate of progress toward your degree. The Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology definition can be found in its most current course catalog.

    Still have questions about the Tuition-Free Community College Plan?

    Please email TuitionFree@boston.gov or call the city hotline, BOS:311, at 3-1-1.