MassReconnect completes first academic year of higher education program

MassReconnect completes first academic year of higher education program

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – A state-funded program is helping many young adults over the age of 25 attend college for free.

Here in Massachusetts, MassReconnect just wrapped up its first academic year with nearly 8,500 students enrolled in the community college program, continuing their education for free. Here in Western Massachusetts, educators say they’re already seeing the impact it’s having on the community.

Mark Hudgik, dean of Strategic Recruitment Initiatives at Holyoke Community College, told 22News, “We saw about a 30 percent increase over the previous year just in the number of adults returning to college, and about an eight percentage point increase in the number of adults in our overall population.”

The program, which launched last year, helps adults 25 and older succeed in life, regardless of their timeline. The program supports students for up to four years at a community college or until they earn an associate degree.

Martha Ortiz says she decided to continue her education a little later in life and it’s the best decision she’s ever made.

“I’m 60… I mean, it’s time, you know,” she told 22News. “I have all this extra time now… kids are grown… just being a grandma and I have the time to do what I want to do and I’m excited about it.”

Ortiz hopes to receive support from the MassReconnect program this coming school year. So far, 500 students at Holyoke Community College have received direct support from the opportunity. Meanwhile, another 250 qualified but received enough aid to decline the offer.

Governor Healey says that in its second year, this program will help thousands of others achieve their dreams and receive free education. Educators say their goal is to help those who missed out on the opportunity to study early in life take the plunge.

A message Martha Ortiz, who is continuing her education, says she encourages others to get inspired and try it too.

“I mean, it’s when you’re ready, because if you’re not ready, you’re not going to go for it 100 percent,” Ortiz said. She explained, “You know, it’s like when you eat a Big Mac and you’re already full, you want to take one more bite, but you can’t, but you want to, so when you do… Yay!”

The state hopes that this program will be a path forward for those who need some extra help. If you are interested, you can apply now at your local community college.