SECTION 1. Chapter 15A of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 15G the following section: --
Section 15H. (a) This section shall be known and may be cited as the “Massachusetts Promise Program.”
(b) As used in this section, the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings: --
(1) “Academic year” shall mean a period of time, typically nine (9) months, in which a full-time student is expected to complete the equivalent of at least two (2) semesters of academic work;
(2) “Board of Higher Education” shall have the same meaning as defined in section 4 of chapter 15A of the General laws;
(3) “Certificate” shall mean a credential, other than a degree, the receipt of which indicates satisfactory completion of training in a program of study, conferred on students by an eligible postsecondary institution;
(4) “Continuous enrollment” shall mean a student is enrolled in the fall and spring semesters of a single academic year. Enrollment in summer semester or inter-session terms is not required;
(5) “Cumulative grade point average” shall mean the grade point average as calculated by the eligible postsecondary institution;
(6) “Degree” shall mean a two-year associate degree conferred on students by an eligible postsecondary institution;
(7) “DHE” shall mean the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education as defined in section 6 of chapter 15A of the General Laws;
(8) “Eligible postsecondary institution” shall mean any of the following institutions of higher education: Berkshire Community College, Bristol Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Greenfield Community College, Holyoke Community College, Massachusetts Bay Community College, Massasoit Community College, Middlesex Community College, Mount Wachusett Community College, Northern Essex Community College, North Shore Community College, Quinsigamond Community College, Roxbury Community College, and Springfield Technical Community College, and any other community college established after November 1, 1989; or, if any such community college shall be abolished, any institution succeeding to the principal functions thereof.
(9) “FAFSA” shall mean the Free Application for Federal Student Aid;
(10) “Full-time” shall mean enrollment in at least twelve (12) semester hours during each semester of attendance;
(11) “GED” shall mean a general educational development credential awarded by a state-approved institution or organization;
(12) “Gift aid” shall mean scholarships and grants from any source that do not require repayment. Student loans and work-student awards shall not be considered gift aid;
(13) “HiSET” shall mean a high school equivalency test credential awarded by a state-approved institution or organization;
(14) “Low income” shall be defined using the income limits set by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD;
(15) “Low- and moderate- income” shall be defined using the income limits set by HUD;
(16) “Program” shall mean the Massachusetts Promise Plan, as described in this section;
(17) “Resident” shall be defined by the eligible postsecondary institution; and
(18) “Semester” means fall, spring, or summer semester at an eligible postsecondary institution, if the institution is on a semester system, or the equivalent, if the institution is on a system other than a semester system.
(c) The Department of Higher Education shall administer the Massachusetts Promise Program. Subject to appropriation and notwithstanding any general or special law or regulation to the contrary, the Department of Higher Education shall establish a fund to provide a waiver of tuition and mandatory fees for community college courses held in the Fall, Spring, or Summer semesters at eligible postsecondary institutions to low income and low- and moderate- income residents of the commonwealth who meet the criteria described in subsections (e) and (f) of this section. Such waiver shall be a grant and limited as provided in subsection (h) of this section.
(d) Application. Students seeking to participate in the Massachusetts Promise Program shall file a FAFSA or renewal FAFSA each year of program participation. The FAFSA must be submitted by mail or electronically as directed in the FAFSA instructions. Students shall file the FAFSA or renewal FAFSA according to the deadlines set by the eligible postsecondary institution.
The FAFSA shall serve as the only application for the Massachusetts Promise Program. No additional application shall be required.
(e) Eligibility. (1) To be eligible for the program, a student shall:
i. be admitted to and enrolled full-time in a DHE-approved certificate program or associate degree program at an eligible postsecondary institution within two years of graduation from high school or completion of the GED or HiSET. Exceptions to initial enrollment may be made for extenuating circumstances as provided in rules and regulations promulgated by the Board of Higher Education;
ii. file the FAFSA prior to the beginning of each academic year;
iii. be eligible for a Pell Grant, as determined by the FAFSA;
iv. have been a resident of Massachusetts for at least two years immediately preceding the date of application for the program; and
v. be considered a low income person or a low- and moderate- income person , per HUD guidelines.
(2) An eligible postsecondary institution seeking to determine eligibility as required by this section may require a student to provide proof of Massachusetts residency.
(3) A student shall not be required to meet any academic standard at the time of enrollment to the eligible postsecondary institution.
(f) Continued eligibility. (1) Requirements for continued eligibility in the program, including but not limited to maintaining minimum grade point average, years of participation covered by the program, and date of high school graduation, shall be determined by the Board of Higher Education based on available funding.
(2) A student who satisfies the criteria set forth in subsections (e)(1) and (g)(1) of this section shall remain eligible for a grant under this section until the occurrence of the first of the following events:
i. The student has earned a certificate or associate’s degree; or
ii. The sum of the number of years the student attended an eligible postsecondary institution, exclusive of approved leaves of absence, equals three years from the date of the student’s initial enrollment at an eligible postsecondary institution.
(g) The program shall also require that graduates of the program remain and work in Massachusetts for a period of two years upon completion of their degree or certificate.
(h) Awards. The total amount of a grant awarded under this section shall be based on each semester that a student is enrolled full time in applicable courses and determined by the DHE. After the amount of tuition for the student is reduced by any amounts received by the student in state and federal gift aid, the student shall be eligible for a grant under this section in an amount that equals:
(1) Not less than the student’s actual combined cost of tuition and mandatory fees; and
(2) Not more than the student’s actual combined cost of tuition, mandatory fees, and books.
(i)Residents with Temporary Protective Status or covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Subject to appropriation and except as provided by any general or special law or regulation to the contrary, the program shall establish a fund to assist with the tuition and mandatory fees of residents covered by Temporary Protective Status or residents covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program who are not eligible to submit a FAFSA.
(j)Powers. The DHE shall promulgate any rules and regulations necessary (1) to effectuate the purposes of this section, including but not limited to those related to the determination of initial and continued eligibility, the designation of approved certificate programs, the prescription of grant calculations for students dually enrolled in eligible postsecondary institutions, the establishment and maintenance of a fund for the tuition and mandatory fees for residents covered by Temporary Protective Status or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, and the distribution of funds appropriated for grants under the program, and (2) to administer the program, including administering requirements related to the evaluation of the impact of the program such as data reporting and collection requirements.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect 90 days after passage.
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