Celebrating Tuition Equity for Massachusetts Students

Massachusetts has now expanded eligibility for in-state tuition to students who have attended Massachusetts high schools for at least three years and earned a Massachusetts diploma, an expansion which will ensure that many non-U.S. citizens are able to access in-state tuition and financial aid rates at public higher education institutions in the Commonwealth.

A group of twelve individuals, including Governor Maura Healey, Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll, Senate President Karen Spilka, Secretary of Education Patrick Tutwiler, and Commissioner of Higher Education Noe Ortega, are seen smiling and posing together. They are positioned in front of a vibrant mural and stand behind a large illuminated sign that prominently reads 'EQUITY.'

Pictured: Governor Maura Healey, Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll, Senate President Karen Spilka, Commissioner of Higher Education Noe Ortega join state and local officials to highlight tuition equity in Massachusetts following the signing of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget at Northern Essex Community College on August 22, 2023. [Joshua Qualls/Governor's Press Office]

September 27, 2023—Upon passage of the Commonwealth’s “High School Completers” Tuition Equity Law on July 1, Massachusetts has expanded access to in-state tuition rates, as well as to state financial aid programming, for all students who have attended high school in the Commonwealth for at least three (3) years, obtained a high school diploma or its equivalent in Massachusetts, and met certain other documentation requirements. While students across the Commonwealth will benefit from this expanded access to affordable higher education, the Tuition Equity Law notably carves a pathway to in-state tuition rates and state financial aid for certain non-US citizen students, including undocumented students, who have attended high school in Massachusetts for at least three (3) years and earned a high school diploma (or the equivalent) in the Commonwealth.

Celebrating the new law at Northern Essex Community College on August 22, Governor Healey shared, “This is a great day for our state. This is a big step forward for students who have grown up here, worked here, and followed their dreams here in Massachusetts. It’s what is fair and what is right. They’re going to continue their journey on the same terms as their peers.”

At the same event, Commissioner Ortega shared:

“Hoy estamos aquí para celebrar que nos encontramos un paso más cerca de un sistema de educación pública superior más equitativo e inclusivo para todos. … Al apoyar a nuestros estudiantes, estamos invirtiendo en el futuro de Massachusetts. Con esta nueva ley, estamos fortaleciendo la economía, la fuerza laboral y las comunidades de nuestro estado.”
“We are here today to celebrate the fact that we are one step closer towards a more equitable and inclusive system of public higher education. … By supporting our students, we are investing in the future of the Commonwealth. With this new policy, we are strengthening our state’s economy, workforce, and communities.”

Implementation Procedures

The Department has issued Implementation Procedures and a single, uniform Student Application and Affidavit form for campus administrators to use for intake and assessment of whether students are eligible for the in-state tuition rate and state financial aid as a “High School Completer” under the new Tuition Equity law.  In January 2024, the Department of Higher Education also launched the Massachusetts Application for State Financial Aid (MASFA). This form allows students who are not able to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) due to their immigration status a way to apply for need-based state financial aid. These forms will be used by institutions to assess student eligibility for in-state tuition and non-need based financial aid (Student Application and Affidavit), as well as need-based state financial aid (MASFA).

Students who otherwise meet the three-year attendance and degree-equivalent requirement(s) may satisfy documentation requirements by submitting either a Social Security or Taxpayer ID number, or an Affidavit affirming that the student will apply for citizenship if and when the student becomes eligible to do so under federal law.

Phased Implementation

The Department has rolled out this new and exciting initiative in phases.

Phase I: Accessing In-State Tuition and Non-Need Based Financial Aid

Upon the completion and submission of the uniform Student Application and Affidavit form students assessed to be eligible for “high school completer” status will be deemed immediately eligible for: 

Currently enrolled or newly admitted students who currently do not qualify for in-state tuition rates but believe they may now qualify as “High School Completers” under the Tuition Equity Law should contact their institution’s financial aid office and complete the application process. Students reassessed as eligible “High School Completers” during the 2023-2024 academic year will be eligible to have their accounts credited or will be reimbursed as of July 1, 2023 for eligible costs.

NEW: Phase II: Applying for Need-Based State Financial Aid

Applying for need-based state financial aid as a “High School Completer” is a two-step process:

Students that submit the Student Application and Affidavit form (Step 1) will be assessed for eligibility by their institution. Students who are assessed to be eligible for “high school completer” status by their institution will be eligible to be considered for need-based aid upon completing and submitting the Massachusetts Application for State Financial Aid (MASFA) (Step 2). The MASFA is the state-approved form equivalent to the FAFSA and will be used by the student’s institution to determine their eligibility for need-based financial aid. After a student has completed both Steps 1 and 2, their institution will be able to determine the student’s eligibility for in-state tuition and non-need based financial aid, as well as need-based financial aid.

Fill out the free 2023-2024 MASFA
Completing the MASFA does not guarantee access to state financial aid, but it makes all students in Massachusetts eligible for consideration under the same terms. Students completing the MASFA with High School Completer Status (Step 2) must also complete the above affidavit (Step 1) with their college or university if they have not already.

Currently enrolled or newly admitted students reassessed as eligible for a state financial aid program as High School Completers during the 2023-2024 academic year will be eligible to have their accounts credited or will be reimbursed as of July 1, 2023 for eligible costs.

The recently released MASFA is for the current 2023-2024 academic year and applies to students seeking need-based state financial aid from any public or private institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. Students who are enrolled in the current 2023-2024 academic year should complete the MASFA and may be eligible to have their accounts credited back to July 1, 2023. Students enrolling for spring 2024 who wish to be considered for need-based financial aid should also complete this form.

An updated MASFA for the 2024-2025 academic year is scheduled to be available in spring 2024.

Staff Contacts

For further assistance, contact Christine Williams, Assistant Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs & Strategic Initiatives, and Christopher Grimaldi, Assistant General Counsel, at this dedicated email address: tuitionequity@dhe.mass.edu.

For questions about the MASFA or the Department’s state financial assistance programs please contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance at 617-391-6070 or osfa@osfa.mass.edu.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Implementation of Tuition Equity Provision

 

The Tuition Equity Provision

What is the Tuition Equity Law?

Effective July 1, 2023, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts created a pathway to expand access to in-state tuition as well as state financial aid. This law created an additional pathway for students, including some non-U.S. citizens, to be eligible for in-state tuition. This new way to be eligible for in-state tuition at Massachusetts public colleges and universities and to be eligible to be considered for Massachusetts financial aid will be in addition to the existing ways for a student to establish eligibility for in-state tuition rates.

How does a student qualify for in-state tuition under the new Tuition Equity Law?

To qualify for in-state tuition rate with “High School Completer” status, which was a new category created by the tuition equity law, a student has to have attended at least three years at high school in Massachusetts and have graduated from high school in Massachusetts or have received the equivalent of a high school diploma (for example, a GED or HiSet) in Massachusetts.

Additional requirements to qualify for in-state tuition as a High School Completer under the Tuition Equity provision are:

  • The student must have been admitted to a public institution of higher education within the Massachusetts system;
  • The student can’t have an ineligible nonimmigrant status—typically meaning a foreign national with an official temporary status in the United States, such as diplomatic officials or someone authorized to be in the US under a work or visitor visa;
  • The student must have applied for military selective service if eligible; and
  • The student must also provide an affidavit form stating that they will file an application to become a citizen or legal permanent resident within 120 days after becoming eligible to do so if the student does not provide a Social Security number of individual tax ID number or if the person is not a citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States.

What other ways can students be eligible for in-state tuition?

Students can also be eligible for in-state status via the primary traditional pathway: establishing US citizenship, lawful immigrant status, or lawful permanent resident status, satisfying the residential requirement, and showing an intention to stay in Massachusetts. This pathway for in-state tuition can be found here. The Tuition Equity provision and High School Completer status is an additional way a student can establish in-state tuition eligibility.

How can a student apply for in-state tuition under the new Tuition Equity provision?

Student seeking access to the in-state tuition rate with “High School Completer” status must apply using the MA Department of Higher Education Tuition Equity Eligibility Form and Affidavit for High School Completers and submit that document to the institution where they are or intend to be enrolled. Each Massachusetts public college and university is responsible for determining the tuition status for its respective students, so the process for submitting the application will be organized on a students’ campus.

Who should complete an application for in-state tuition under this new Tuition Equity provision?

Any student meeting the requirements may apply for eligibility for in-state tuition through High School Completer status, including students who are not U.S. citizens.

Will any student information be shared?

In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1947 (FERPA) a student’s personally identifiable information is protected from being shared with third parties. Institutions are expected to refrain from unnecessarily obtaining information about a student’s immigration or citizenship status without a reason, and only to the extent needed to make tuition and financial aid eligibility determinations. Institutions should also provide training to all faculty and staff on privacy policies.

How soon can I obtain the in-state tuition rate?

The new provision became law as of July 1, 2023 and can be used for any term that begins after that date. Students may use the application attached to apply now to their institution for the in-state tuition rate, which, if eligible, will be applied retroactively and will result in a credit or reimbursement for the difference in rate as of that date. The law cannot be used to change tuition status for any term beginning prior to July 1, 2023.

Can students currently classified as out-of-state have their tuition status changed to in-state?

Yes. Each college has a process called reclassification, which is how students file a request to be changed from out-of-state to in-state status. A student can submit the form to be eligible for High School Completer status and in-state eligibility. Note that any reclassification will only be effective as of July 1, 2023. Beginning in the 2024-2025 academic year and beyond, retroactive reclassifications for Massachusetts state financial aid decisions are limited to the beginning of the semester during which the institution makes the final decision to reclassify the student. Information on the traditional pathway for in-state tuition can be found here. A link to the illustrative list of documents establishing lawful immigration status can be found here, and is being reviewed for potential expansion in light of federal immigration law changes.

How does a student meet the high school requirement?

The student is required to complete at least three years of high school (9th-12th grade) in Massachusetts. Any combination of three years of enrollment is acceptable. The school may be public or private but must be physically located within Massachusetts. A student must also have graduated from high school or have received the equivalent of a high school diploma (like a GED).

Will students be asked their parents’ legal immigration status in order to apply for instate tuition?

No. Under this provision, the parent’s legal status is completely immaterial. The student’s immigration status also is largely immaterial except that the provision is not available to students with certain immigration statuses referenced in the law, such as diplomatic officials and those only authorized to work or visit the US on a short term temporary basis.   Please see the implementation procedures for more detail.  

Is the Application form and affidavit submitted to the Department of Higher Education (DHE) or to the institution where the student is applying, admitted and/or enrolled?

The application form and affidavit should be submitted to the institution where the student is applying/admitted and/or enrolled.

If a student is seeking eligibility under the tuition equity law, is there a duration of residency requirement (e.g., student must live in Massachusetts for 6 or 12 months)?

No, not at this time. The Tuition Equity law and the implementation procedures currently do not have a duration of residency requirement.

Does the Tuition Equity law impact a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid?

No. “High School Completer” status and the Tuition Equity Law does not change Federal requirements for Federal forms of financial aid (for example Pell Grants, Direct Loans, etc).

When can a student be considered for in-state tuition and state financial aid?

A student can apply to their campus immediately using the form for a determination on in-state tuition eligibility and for consideration for non-need-based financial aid. Students will be informed when a state financial aid application is available to be considered for need-based financial aid. That application will be available by January 2024.

How can students contact at the DHE if they believe they were incorrectly classified/re-classified by their college/university?

Students are encouraged to approach their institution to determine an appeals process. Students who remain aggrieved after raising the issue with their institution may also submit their concerns via the DHE compliant process, detailed here.

 

Necessary Documentation with Tuition Equity Eligibility Form and Affidavit for High School Completers

If a student is able to submit a Social Security number, what are the requirements for submitting evidence of that number?

Students need not supply a physical SSN card, they need merely supply the number. Any validly issued SSN will suffice, including an unrestricted, work-restricted, or nonwork purpose SSN.

If a student is able to submit an Individual Tax ID number (ITIN), what are the requirements for submitting evidence of that number?

Evidence reflecting issuance of an ITIN should include any correspondence to that effect from the IRS or any tax return filed with the ITIN.

If required to submit evidence of Selective Service Registration, what documentation is required to show that registration?

Students may submit any of the following to show compliance with the Selective Service Registration requirement:

  1. Copy of selective service card;
  2. The selective service number;
  3. Registration acknowledgement letter; or
  4. Proof of filing a DHE Form I-495 for adjustment of status to permanent residence (which is considered automatic registration), or any other evidence presented by the president showing proof of registration.

What are the specific requirements for Selective Service registration?

A student need only demonstrate that they have registered for selective service if they are required (almost all male US citizens and male immigrants aged 18-25). Such students need only show receipt of the registration submission made at any US post office and does not require a return acknowledgement from the Selective Service System. A copy of the submission receipt is sufficient.

Does the new tuition equity law also apply to private high schools in MA?

Yes, High School Completer status is available to any student who has completed three years at a Massachusetts high school and received a high school diploma or equivalent in Massachusetts. The tuition equity law does not exclude private high schools.

 

Massachusetts Student Financial Assistance

Does qualifying for in-state tuition mean a student has access to Massachusetts financial aid?

Yes, subject to meeting the eligibility requirement of each financial aid program. If a student is determined eligible for in-state tuition with “High School Completer” status, they may be eligible for consideration for some Massachusetts financial aid programs. This eligibility for consideration for financial aid does not guarantee access to financial aid. High School Completer status will allow a student to be considered for state-funded financial assistance on the same terms as other individuals. That means that students must meet the eligibility criteria for each financial aid program for which the student is seeking access.

Massachusetts state financial aid programs can be accessed here.

Once determined to be eligible for High School Completer status, the student is eligible for all state financial aid programs administered by the Department, on the same terms as other individuals.

What does a student need to do in order to access Massachusetts Financial Aid?

Once determined to be eligible for “High School Completer” status, the student will be eligible for all state financial aid programs administered by the department provided:

  1. The student meets all of the specific eligibility requirements and deadlines for each MA state financial aid program sought to be awarded; and
  2. The student files a FAFSA or the state-alternative form (currently under development) if applicable; and
  3. The student is determined eligible for a specific award amount by the institution, or by the Department.

Additional Financial Aid information can be found here.

When can a student be eligible for Massachusetts state financial aid?

Students can immediately submit their application and affidavit for an eligibility determination regarding in-state tuition and for all non-need-based financial aid programs. Once a new state financial aid application is developed for all need-based aid, students will be informed of that application and able to apply for consideration under those financial aid programs.

In the case of in-state tuition as well as state financial aid, student eligibility, if approved, will be retroactive to July 1, 2023.

More specifically, in-state tuition eligibility will be determined immediately, but there will be a phased approach to rolling out state financial aid programs for students with High School completer status.

In Phase I, students determined eligible for MA state financial aid will be immediately eligible for consideration for all non-need-based, Department administered state financial aid programs, including all non-need-based tuition waivers.

In Phase II, for all Massachusetts state financial aid programs that are need-based and therefore require the filing of a FAFSA, or a state-approved equivalent form, the Department will be rolling out eligibility rules and requirements throughout FY2024 (Academic year 2023-2024), with the goal that all criteria for each program will be finalized by [January 1, 2024].

Note that if a student has concerns or disagreement about a state financial aid determination, they may submit their concerns via the DHE compliant process, found here.

Can students who are documented but not eligible for federal financial aid and who qualify under the Tuition Equity Law apply using the Form and Affidavit as well?

Yes. We know that, for example, certain TPS holders may be ineligible for federal aid, but would be eligible for in state tuition.

May eligible graduate-level students apply for financial aid and in-state tuition under the new law?

Yes, any student eligible under the new law may apply for both in-state tuition and will be eligible for consideration for state financial aid programs for which they otherwise qualify.

Are students required to have completed three years of high school consecutively leading up to college, or simply three years cumulatively at any time in their lives?

Students must have completed three years of high school in Massachusetts. (And have graduated from a MA high school or have a MA high school degree equivalent). The three years of high school attendance do not need to be consecutive but may have occurred at any time

 

 

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