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Who is a High School Completer? New Guidelines for Eligibility Under the Massachusetts Tuition Equity Law

Submitted by on September 29, 2023 – 4:13 pm

Haverhill, MA (September 29, 2023) – A month after Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey celebrated the Tuition Equity Law on the Northern Essex Community College Lawrence Campus, the state Department of Higher Education (DHE) has released new guidelines to determine which students qualify for the program.

The law allows anyone who meets the criteria listed below to access in-state tuition and financial aid at the Commonwealth’s public colleges and universities. Collectively, this group of students are referred to as “High School Completers.”  And while all students can benefit from this expanded access to affordable higher education, the Tuition Equity Law notably carves a pathway for certain non-US citizen students, including undocumented students.

High School Completers have:

  • Attended high school in the Commonwealth for at least three years
  • Earned a diploma or the equivalent (a GED/ HiSet) in the Commonwealth
  • Met other documentation requirements

The law is retroactive to July 1. Northern Essex President Lane Glenn shared that this means some students who are currently enrolled or took classes over the summer could be entitled to a refund.

“If you are an enrolled student and previously were not eligible for in-state tuition or state financial aid, but, after applying and being assessed, you are now determined to be eligible under the new Tuition Equity Law, you may be eligible to have your account credited,” Glenn noted.

Students should contact their institution’s financial aid office and complete the application process to determine eligibility. Information specific to Northern Essex students can be found on the webpage.

Tuition Equity at NECC
President Lane Glenn has been at the forefront of advocating for tuition equity in Massachusetts. Nearly 20 years after initial proposals, the Tuition Equity Bill was championed in the MA Senate’s FY24 Budget, and Governor Maura Healey signed the provision into law on August 9, 2023.

“Northern Essex Community College has a campus in the Gateway City of Lawrence, also known as the ‘Immigrant City,’ and I know firsthand that this important policy will immediately benefit students in Lawrence and across the Commonwealth, make Massachusetts more economically competitive with other states, and better prepare the workforce we need in the years ahead,” said Glenn of the bill’s passage.

The Tuition Equity Law was celebrated with a special event and press conference on the Lawrence Campus of Northern Essex featuring Governor Healey, Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, and Senate President Karen Spilka.

Joan S. at the Tuition Equity Law Celebration

Several students also attended, including Joan S., a General Studies: Health Professions major at Northern Essex. She moved to the United States from Tanzania when she was just ten years old. At age 16, she found out she was undocumented, which made her goal of one day becoming a nurse practitioner seem even further out of reach.

“In order to apply for the nursing program, I had to take prerequisite classes, which would typically take a person a semester or two to complete; however, it took me years because I had to take one or two classes at a time. Because of my status, these classes cost three times the amount an in-state student pays for tuition,” Joan shared with the audience in a moving speech. “With the passing of this new bill, I now feel as though I have an opportunity to pursue my education further.”

A recording of the event, including Joan’s remarks, can be found here. To learn more about Tuition Equity at Northern Essex and eligibility requirements, visit the webpage.