On Thursday, April 6, Bristol Community College hosted an open, roundtable discussion about MassReconnect and Student SUCCESS funds, two of the Healey-Driscoll administration’s top budget priorities for higher education in the Commonwealth. The roundtable, held in Bristol's LEED® Platinum certified John J. Sbrega Health and Science Building, was led by Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler, Commissioner of Higher Education Noe Ortega, and President of Bristol Community College Laura L. Douglas and included testimony from Bristol students and educators about how programs like the SUCCESS fund and MassReconnect have had, or could have, a significant impact on their lives.

The SUCCESS Fund awards grants to community colleges to provide wraparound support and services to improve outcomes for vulnerable populations, such as low-income, first-generation, minority, disabled and LGBTQ+ Students. The panelists discussed how Bristol’s Student Success Center has used SUCCESS funding to hire coaches to identify and assist students facing challenges to their academic progress through holistic case management and additional support for student needs, including transportation, childcare or food insecurity.

Bristol’s panelists also shared how the newly proposed MassReconnect program, which will cover the cost of community college for all Massachusetts residents aged 25 or older without an equivalent credential, could significantly impact the lives of students and help shape the college experience. The average age of a Bristol Community College student is 26 years old. Approximately 40% of the college’s students in the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 semesters are adult students.

“I am here today for two reasons: 1, to listen and observe the stellar work Bristol Community College is doing to support students, especially through the Student SUCCESS center and 2, understand why it’s important to continue to fund this program as well as increase financial aid programs, like the MassReconnect program Governor Healey and Lt. Governor Driscoll have proposed in their budget,” said Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler. “MassReconnect would allow community college students age 25 and older to earn their degree or certificate at no cost to the student, and we see it as an important step toward increasing access for students traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

“We are in full support of the Healey-Driscoll administration’s top budget priorities for higher education in the Commonwealth. MassReconnect, SUCCESS funds and the support of Early College are ‘game changers’ that will allow students to complete their degree, enhance their quality of life and boost Bristol County's economy," said President of Bristol Community College Laura L. Douglas.

“Bristol’s Student Success Center, along with my coach's guidance, proved to be instrumental in setting me on the right path during my first semester. As a student that had been out of school for more than 10 years, I was nervous to start. This program helped me gain the confidence needed to keep going,” said Bristol Community College Student Maria Mendoza-Carbonell. “My coach has frequently offered many tips and additional resources, which kept me motivated and engaged.”

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