At Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) last week Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley joined Mayor Michelle Wu, BHCC President Pam Eddinger, and BHCC students to celebrate the $1 million in federal community project funding Pressley secured to expand the City of Boston’s Tuition-Free Community College program.
Rep. Pressley and Mayor Wu were given a tour of BHCC’s campus, followed by a press conference to highlight how the funding will help address the college affordability crisis locally.
“Thank you for joining us as we celebrate community project funds that we have delivered to help expand the City of Boston’s Free-Tuition Community College program,” said Pressley at the press conference. “It is long past time that we make robust investments in access to higher education. President Biden recently signed the annual government funding bill which included millions in federal funding for 10 community projects across the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District totaling some $8 million.”
Pressley said the federal funding is the result of nearly a year’s worth of advocacy by her office and local partners that resulted in $1 million in direct targeted spending to support Boston’s Tuition-Free Community College program expansion.
“There’s absolutely no doubt expanding this program with these federal dollars will enable us to serve a critical need within our community and help more students achieve their goals of earning a college degree,” said Pressley. “At every level of government we have a responsibility to fight for education, equity, and justice and programs like this are a great example of how we can increase true access to higher education.”
The Tuition-Free Community College program began under former Mayor and current U.S. Labor Secretary Martin Walsh, whom Pressley thanked for his commitment to supporting tuition free college initiatives during his time in the corner office at City Hall.
“I would also like to thank our delegation colleagues and incredible partners like Bunker Hill Community College,” she said. “A lot of work and sweat equity was spent on this and I look forward to our continued partnership as we work towards ensuring our higher education system is truly affordable and accessible to all because for too long, the dream of a higher education has remained out of reach and for millions, including the more than 850,000 federal student loan borrowers here in the Commonwealth. It has come with a very steep price tag and decades of debt, the college affordability and unprecedented 1.7 trillion student dollar debt crisis has disproportionately impacted black and brown borrowers and communities here in the Commonwealth and across our nation.”
Pressley added that programs like Boston’s Tuition-Free Community College program will improve education outcomes and lower costs for students and help address these crises upstream.
“I’m incredibly proud to be here today to deliver the $1 million in federal investment to the city’s community college program and I’m thankful to everyone here today for being partners in this work to create a more just and equitable Boston,” said Pressley.
Pressley secured this federal funding for Boston in the government spending package that passed Congress and was signed into law by President Biden in March. In total, Pressley secured over $8 million for 10 community projects across the Massachusetts 7th Congressional District, capping off nearly a year of advocacy by Pressley and local leaders.
“This is a million dollars in funding that will go directly to making sure we are closing gaps for our young leaders as they are building our future,” said Mayor Wu. “This million dollars to fund and expand Boston’s Tuition-Free Community College program is a major step forward at just the right moment.”
Wu said research has shown that many community college students are affected in their ability to stay in class and stay enrolled because of the juggle that real life imposes.
“Taking care of kids, managing the needs for housing and food so funding like this will not only go to our students but to the families and the neighborhoods and communities that they are part of,” said Wu. “Currently, Boston’s Tuition-Free Community College program currently supports 860 Boston public school students in their higher education,” said Wu. “This funding will ensure that 600 more students and residents are supported by this program. We’ve already received over 200 applications for this next school year. All of us deserve the option to pursue a higher education and today is one more step in making sure that all are reflected. I want to thank the Congresswoman for her leadership and advocacy. You should be able to (attain higher education) without being buried in debt for years to come.”
BHCC President Pam Eddinger added, “We are grateful for this funding to expand the program allowing us to reach more students, especially with including certain certificates and short-term training.”
Pressley, in partnership with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), has consistently called on President Joe Biden to cancel student debt. Last year, they led their colleagues in reintroducing their bicameral resolution outlining a bold plan for President Biden to tackle the student loan debt crisis by using existing authority under the Higher Education Act to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt for Federal student loan borrowers.