Chapter 15A of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2016 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting, after section 16, the following new section:-
Section 16A. (a) Definitions
As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings, unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
“Eligible Borrower,” a resident of the commonwealth, who is a graduate or former student who accrued student loan debt while enrolled in a Massachusetts public college or university or other public certificate, vocational, or adult education program.
“Eligible Student,” a resident of the commonwealth as determined by the board of higher education's residency status for tuition classification purposes, who has attained a high school diploma or its equivalent in the commonwealth, who is admitted to and enrolled in a Massachusetts public college or university or other public certificate, vocational, or adult education program, and who is enrolled full-time or part-time, and who maintains a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or above.
“Essential Worker,” a worker reporting on-site to perform "COVID-19 Essential Services" as defined in the Governor's March 23, 2020 emergency order (“COVID-19 Order No. 13”) or in the Governor's March 31, 2020 extension order (“COVID-19 Order No. 21”), or under any order further extending these orders.
(b) Notwithstanding the provisions of any general or special law to the contrary, the Department of Higher Education shall create a Debt Free Futures for Essential Workers Grant Program to provide a grant of $10,000 to an eligible student at any Massachusetts public college or university, or certificate, vocational, or training program at a public institution, to pay the tuition and mandatory fees and other costs related to attendance, or up to $10,000 to an eligible borrower to assist in the repayment of their student loan debt .
(c) The grant shall supplement and shall not replace state grants, gift aid, institutional aid, or federal aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process. The Department of Higher Education shall establish guidelines governing said program, to ensure funds from this program do not affect eligibility for other state grants, gift aid, institutional aid, or federal aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid process.
(d) All public higher education and public vocational training institutions shall be considered eligible institutions for this program and there shall be no restrictions on a student’s choice of academic programs.
(e) The Department of Higher Education shall provide the Joint Committee on Higher Education of the General Court a report analyzing the usage, achievements and costs of this program, together with recommendations for its future, no later than 120 days following the program’s first year of operation.
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