Massachusetts Senate Budget Would Give Illegal Immigrants Free Community College

Printed from:

If the Massachusetts Senate has its way, illegal immigrants will get free community college in the Bay State during the 2024-2025 school year.

The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a $58 billion budget last week that, among other things, would make community college tuition-free in Massachusetts.

It would use revenue from the Fair Share Amendment – an amendment to the state constitution voters approved in November 2022 by 52 to 48 percent that increased the state income tax from 5 percent to 9 percent on yearly income exceeding $1 million – to make that happen.

The MassEducate proposal, championed by the Senate president, Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), would provide $75.5 million to make community college tuition-free in Massachusetts. 

However, the eligibility guidelines mean that illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for at least one year, lack a college degree, and intend to apply for legal permanent residence.

Here is the exact wording of the proposal in the Massachusetts Senate budget, from pages 3 and 4, lines 3 through 16:


There shall be a community college program to provide an approved certificate or associate degree offered by a community college segment under section 5 of chapter 15A. The program shall be available at no cost to residents that: (i) are domiciled in the commonwealth for at least 1 year; (ii) are not nonimmigrant aliens within meaning U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(A) to (S), inclusive; (iii) are enrolled in and pursuing a program of higher education at a public community college; (iv) have not previously earned a college degree; (v) have completed a free application for federal student aid or an equivalent application for state funded financial assistance; provided, however, that if the individual is not a citizen of the United States or a legal permanent resident of the United States, the application for financial assistance shall be submitted with an affidavit signed under the pains and penalties of perjury stating that the individual has applied for citizenship or legal permanent residence or will apply for citizenship or legal permanent residence in accordance with federal statute and federal regulations within 120 days of eligibility for such status; and (vi) are enrolled in not less than 6 credits.


“Nonimmigrant aliens” in federal law refers to temporary residents of the country who are here legally, such as foreign diplomats and foreign crew members of a commercial sailing vessel. The requirement in the bill to apply “for citizenship of legal permanent residence … within 120 days of eligibility for such status” covers foreign-born residents of Massachusetts who are in the country illegally.

Without mentioning the illegal immigrant eligibility, Spilka praised the proposal in a press release from her office earlier this month.

“Today, we shift conversations about college from ‘I wish,’ to ‘I will,’ for thousands of students and families in Massachusetts,” Spilka said in the written statement. “We are investing in talent that is right here at home, and opening the workforce floodgates to employers who are starved for graduates, so Massachusetts keeps the competitive edge that we pride ourselves in. I’m tremendously grateful to Senate Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues and Senate Higher Education Chair Comerford for their work, to our members for their support, and the students, educators, advocates, and business leaders who have poured their expertise into this proposal to transform thousands of lives.”

The chairman of the of the state Senate’s Committee on Ways and Means is state Senator Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport.) The chairman of the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Higher Education Committee is state Senator Joanne Comerford (D-Northampton), who is also assistant vice chairman of the state Senate’s Committee on Ways and Means.

Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, told NewBostonPost he thinks giving illegal immigrants free community college is a bad idea.

“The idea of ‘free’ community college is a bad idea to start with,” Craney wrote in an email message. “Once state government makes something ‘free,’ the cost to the taxpayers will skyrocket. Adding a provision making this ‘free’ and eligible for any non-citizen, only opens the door for abuse, that the taxpayers will be obligated to pay for.”

Jessica Vaughn of the Center for Immigration Studies also disapproves of the proposal.

She highlighted several potential problems with it, in an email message to NewBostonPost:


This absurd provision in the Senate budget bill would offer free community college to illegal aliens, while those on student visas who applied and qualified lawfully would have to pay full tuition costs.  This bill creates a huge incentive for anyone from abroad to arrive illegally to get a free community college education, courtesy of Massachusetts taxpayers.  In the process, you could see American citizens and legal immigrants in Massachusetts get closed out of some of the most popular programs, such as nursing, which are limited in enrollment.  Community colleges have a unique and important mission — to serve nontraditional, lower income, or vocational students in the community, and this mission is heavily subsidized by taxpayers on behalf of the community.  It should not be given away to new arrivals who are living in the community in violation of the law.  

The requirement that recipients of free tuition promise that they will apply for citizenship or a green card as soon as they are eligible is intended to dupe people into thinking that the illegal immigrants who get the benefit are on a path to lawful status.  This is nonsense and an empty promise; the reality is that most of these illegal immigrants have no path to legal status, whether they promise they will seek it or not.  They should not receive taxpayer benefits until they do get legal status.  


The version of the state budget bill Massachusetts House of Representatives approved on April 26 does not include free community college. So the proposal has hurdles to clear before it could take effect.

The House and Senate budgets must go to a conference committee where members of both chambers hash out the differences between the two bills to create something that both chambers can support. 

Then, both chambers will vote on a final budget which will go to Governor Maura Healey’s desk to sign. 

If the conference committee keeps the MassEducate provision as is, then this program will most likely become law.

Currently, illegal immigrants are eligible for in-state tuition at Massachusetts colleges and universities; if this proposal becomes law, that would continue at four-year colleges.

Spilka’s office could not be reached for comment on Tuesday or Wednesday. Nor could House Speaker Ron Mariano (D-Quincy).


New to NewBostonPost? Conservative media is hard to find in Massachusetts. But you’ve found it. Now dip your toe in the water for two bucks — $2 for two months. And join the real revolution.