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Free college program boosts NSCC – Itemlive

Free college program boosts NSCC – Itemlive

LYNN — Nearly a year after lawmakers and Gov. Maura Healey passed MassReconnect, a program that allows people ages 25 and older without a high school degree to enroll and attend community colleges across the state without paying tuition, the program has certainly made its mark at North Shore Community College.

NSCC reported a 10% increase in enrollment from the 2022-23 academic year (before the adoption of MassReconnect) to the 2023-24 academic year. According to the school, 572 students have enrolled at NSCC through the MassReconnect program for the 2023-24 academic year. The school also reported that 240 students participating in the program are enrolled for the summer 2024 semester.

“There was a real jump,” said Jason Marsala, dean of enrollment services at NSCC.

So far, 56 students enrolled through MassReconnect have graduated, the school reported.

“The great thing about the program is that it targets a group of people who either started their education and dropped out or never considered education as an option,” Marsala said.

He added that people over 25 have many concerns about pursuing a college degree, such as the cost of childcare, dividing time between work and study, and their academic preparation.

“I think (the program) really allows people to take the leap and decide if now is the right time for them,” Marsala added.

He said that with the implementation of MassReconnect, the admissions office developed a more holistic and targeted admissions strategy.

“We don’t want these people to come here and not be successful,” Marsala said.

For example, he said the office is holding more information sessions in the evenings because MassReconnect is designed for people who normally work full-time.

During open houses, the office also hosts separate sessions where prospective students can learn more about MassReconnect and get help completing their application forms and applying for financial aid, Marsala added.

He said implementing the program also allowed the school to rethink its programming and course offerings.

Marsala added that many of the students enrolled through MassReconnect are English language learners, particularly at the Lynn campus, which is why the school has begun offering more English as a second language courses, he said.

The college is also increasingly offering evening classes to accommodate students who are busy during the day.

“It really forced us to rethink how we offer certain courses that students might be looking for,” Marsala said.

As for working with students on the MassReconnect application process itself, Marsala said it has been “reinvigorating” for him and his staff in the admissions office.

“When students come to us and say things like, ‘You know, you have no idea how much this is going to change my life and my family’s life,’ it makes me realize why I did this job,” he said. “I wanted to make sure everyone had access to a quality education. And this program has really helped a lot of people and hopefully will continue to do so in the future.”

A press release from Healey’s office said her fiscal year 2025 budget proposal includes $24 million in funding for MassReconnect, a 20% increase over fiscal year 2024.

  • Emily Rosenberg

    Emily is The Item’s Lynn reporter. She graduated from Framingham State University in 2023 with a major in political science and a minor in journalism. While at FSU, she served as editor-in-chief of the school’s independent student newspaper. In her free time, she enjoys exploring museums, hosting murder mystery parties with her friends, and creative writing.

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