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$1 million allocated to students enrolled in ‘in demand majors’

By Sophia Harris

Editor-in-Chief


Framingham State was allocated $1 million from the Board of Higher Education’s Office of Student Financial Assistance to support students enrolled in ‘In Demand Majors’ on March 29.


Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars was also allocated to FSU as part of the MassGrant Plus Expansion Program in March.


According to the Board of Higher Education Massachusetts In-Demand Scholarship Program, “This program was created by the Massachusetts Legislature in the 2024 Fiscal-Year budget to support economic development in the Commonwealth by providing financial assistance to residents who are pursuing programs of study that will help address the Commonwealth’s workforce needs.”


This expenditure is required by June 30, said Dale Hamel, executive vice president.


According to the program description, awards for eligible applicants can be allocated up to the full cost of tuition and fees as well as an additional $1,200 allowance for books and supplies. 


The Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development identified majors that would increase the economic development of the Commonwealth by using annual reports on labor and market conditions.


These In-Demand majors are included but are not limited to STEM and Education fields, according to the program information.


In order to qualify for this scholarship assistance, students enrolled at Framingham State must have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), have a GPA of 3.0 or above, and have declared a major in an in-demand field, according to Hamel. 


The funds will be released “hopefully by the end of the semester,” according to Hamel, Iris Godes, dean of strategic enrollment management, and Caitlin Laurie, director of financial aid.

These funds are also available for both part-time and full-time undergraduate and graduate students who are currently pursuing an education as an in-demand major at FSU, Laurie said.


She said, “Typically, these funds are restricted to undergraduate students, so this is huge for our graduate students who meet these requirements.”


Hamel said, “We're very, very excited about this. And we'll be doing an initial analysis of how much we can provide to each individual student that's eligible onto their account.”


He added, “You could be eligible by simply submitting a FAFSA and if you happen to be in one of these majors.”


He said, “We're going to hopefully broadcast or reach out to people who are eligible but haven't submitted a FAFSA.”


Hamel said, “We're going to do as much work as possible to identify eligible students. And in many ways, we're hoping students don't have to do anything if they're eligible because if they have completed the FAFSA and made the GPA - it will happen.”


Godes said students with the most financial need and highest academic achievement will be prioritized for these funds first.


Currently, 89% of students at FSU receive financial aid, according to Laurie.


Hamel said, “If you have not applied to FAFSA yet, apply now to become eligible for these scholarships.”


He added, “There's no guarantee it'll be available the next fiscal year.” 


Two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand dollars was also allocated to Framingham State as part of the MassGrant Plus Expansion Program.


This is an expansion of the original $2.2 million which was applied to students’ fall and spring semester bills for the 2023-24 academic year. The aid was intended to help students with tuition, fees, and supplies.


The MassGrant Plus expansion is part of Governor Maura Healey’s $62 million expansion of the MASSGrant Plus program that passed on Nov. 16.


Laurie and Hamel applied for an extension of this grant to meet additional student needs. 


Laurie said, “I did an assessment of our students and I also looked at summer enrollment patterns and made a case to ask for an additional $250,000 to support our students who take our classes because we do have quite a few courses to enroll in over the summer and if they meet the criteria of having either being Pell-eligible, or in the Pell-adjacent group, they will be awarded these funds.


“We wanted to make sure that we're getting as much money as we possibly can for our students,” she added. 


Godes said, “We encourage people to register for summer courses. … This grant will be allocated to students who are enrolled in summer classes.”


Students eligible for these funds are those who are Pell Grant recipients and who are taking two or more summer classes. 


These funds will also be allocated to middle-income students - defined as those whose families earn between $73,000 and $100,000 - who enroll in three or more summer courses, according to Laurie. 


Framingham State is offering 181 summer courses for summer AY24 with a mix of in-person, hybrid, and remote models, according to Hamel.


Hamel said the original appropriation provided by the Fairshare Act has not changed. Rather, the Office of Student Financial Assistance did not allocate all of the original funding that had been appropriated.  


Godes said, “I think Framingham State has done an outstanding job in spending every dollar we possibly can to support our students.” 


According to an emailed April community update from President Nancy Niemi, “This additional funding provides crucial support to our neediest students and their families. I’m deeply grateful to the Healy-Driscoll administration and our local delegation at the State House for this crucial support.”


In an email to The Gatepost, Niemi said, “We are fortunate to be able to offer more resources to our students so they can complete their learning with significantly less debt. I am glad that the Commonwealth understands the investment we make when we help our students work towards becoming Framingham State University graduates.”

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