SECTION 1. Chapter 15A of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2014 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after section 16 the following section:-
Section 16A. There shall be a Bridge the Gap Scholarship Program to provide universal access for residents of the Commonwealth to public higher education through accredited degree programs offered at community college institutions under section 5 of this chapter. Such assistance shall apply only after all other federal and state financial assistance has been exhausted. To be eligible, students must have obtained a high school diploma, or its equivalent, from an institution within the Commonwealth within the preceding two years, maintain a cumulative 2.5 grade point average during their course of study, complete their course of study within three years, and agree to reside and work within the Commonwealth for at least two years after graduation of such course of study or further degree program within the Commonwealth. If a student does not fulfill the above requirements, the scholarship will be converted into a low interest loan to be determined and administered by the Department of Higher Education and Massachusetts Education Financing Authority (MEFA) with exemptions for financial hardship.
Each community college shall annually consult with their Board of Trustees, local workforce developments boards, and employers to identify current and future workforce needs within such region. Upon identifying such workforce needs, the college shall certify up to five programs eligible to qualify under the Bridge the Gap Scholarship Program to promote universal access to higher education and workforce readiness. The college shall annually file with the Department of Higher Education those programs certified to receive the Bridge the Gap scholarship. The Department of Higher Education may promulgate regulations to implement this section.
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