Boston Using Federal Stimulus Money On Free College For Illegal Immigrants

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If you’re an illegal immigrant who lives in Boston, you can attend college free of charge next year.

The Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development under Mayor Michelle Wu plans to spend $4 million to expand the city’s Tuition-Free Community College Plan, according to a press release from Wu’s office.

The program’s eligibility has been expanded to cover all residents, regardless of their graduation year, income level, or immigration status. The new rules mean that immigrants can use the free college program during the 2023-2024 school year.

Under the plan, current Boston residents can attend one of six partner community colleges without paying tuition or fees:  Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, Bunker Hill Community College, Massasoit Community College, MassBay Community College, Roxbury Community College, and Urban College of Boston.

The plan covers the balance owed after financial aid and other funding sources have been applied. Additionally, students will receive a $250 stipend per semester for up to three years.

“Expanding Boston’s Tuition-Free Community College is a critical step in ensuring more of our city’s residents are eligible to pursue higher education right here in the City. This funding will increase community college enrollment and connect more residents with quality jobs,” Mayor Wu said in a press release issued by her office  Thursday, March 30. “I want to thank Congresswoman Pressley for her leadership and all of our partner institutions for their critical work ensuring that we are closing gaps and expanding access to education for all.”

U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Hyde Park) is a former member of the Boston City Council, as is Wu.

Monique Tú Nguyen, executive director of the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, touted the free-college-for-illegal-immigrants aspect of the plan, suggesting it will especially help people who are “BIPOC,” a term that stands for “black, indigenous, and people of color.” 

“All immigrants are key members of our community who contribute to our vibrant culture and economy,” Nguyen said in the written statement. “They kept our essential industries running throughout the pandemic, despite the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on our BIPOC communities. Providing equal access to all residents, regardless of migratory status, honors their current contributions and invests in their potential in shaping Boston’s future. Now that all Bostonians are eligible to take tuition-free community college classes – we hope many undocumented residents will enroll in this program.”

Of the $4 million being spent to expand this program, $3 million will come from the federal American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion spending package President Joe Biden signed into law in February 2021; the bill included $350 billion in aid to state and local governments. Additionally, Pressley secured $1 million in federal community project funding to help fund the expansion. Pressley secured this money in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022, a $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill signed into law by President Joe Biden in March 2022.

“Not only will expanding Boston’s tuition-free community college program help more students earn a college degree, but it will also help us address the college affordability crisis,” Pressley said in the press release. “I am proud to have secured these federal funds to expand this program, and I’m grateful to Mayor Wu, Mayor Janey, community leaders, and our students for their close partnership.”

Kim Janey served as a city councilor along with Wu and Pressley before briefly serving as acting mayor before the November 2021 election that Wu won.

In addition to standard college classes, the free-community-college program will cover short-term certificate programs at its partner colleges. However, the complete list of certificate programs it will cover has not been announced yet.

The announced changes will expand a program that was created in 2016.

Before the program’s expansion, here were the eligibility requirements to use it:


  • Graduate from a high school in Boston (BPS, private, or charter school) within the past 12 months

  • Have a grade-point average of at least 2.0

  • Be able to complete community college in 3 years

  • Be eligible for a Pell Grant, as determined by the FAFSA

  • Require no more than three developmental courses by the start of the semester

  • Be accepted to Roxbury Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, or MassBay Community College

  • Be a Boston resident

  • Have low to moderate household income, per HUD guidelines


Since the program previously required students to be Pell Grant-eligible, illegal immigrants were not eligible for the program before it was expanded last week. 

The program has served more than 1,000 Boston students thus far, according to the mayor’s office.

More information on the TFCC Plan expansion is available at

Press spokesmen for Wu, Pressley, Nguyen, and the Office of Workforce Development could not be reached for comment on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. 


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