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Airline travel and more disrupted by global tech outage; Nevada gets OK to sell federal public lands for affordable housing;Science Moms work to foster meaningful talks on climate change; Scientists reconsider net-zero pledges to reach climate goals.

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As Trump accepts nomination for President, delegates emphasize themes of unity and optimism envisioning 'new golden age.' But RNC convention was marked by strong opposition to LGBTQ rights, which both opened and closed the event.

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It's grass-cutting season and with it, rural lawn mower races, Montana's drive-thru blood project is easing shortages, rural Americans spend more on food when transportation costs are tallied, and a lack of good childcare is thwarting rural business owners.

Free community college plan in MA burdens underpaid, overworked staff

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Thursday, June 6, 2024   

The Massachusetts Senate has proposed free community college for all residents, but educators say an influx of new students could overwhelm the system.

The MassEducate plan invests $75 million in new spending to cover tuition and fees and creates a fund for emergency costs, like child care, which can derail a student's graduation.

Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, called the program a win for social equity and a boon for the state's economy.

"We know that earnings increase, we know health increases, we know opportunity increases with every degree that someone gets," Comerford outlined. "Beginning with community college."

The state's new "millionaire's tax" would fund the program, but educators in the state's 15 community colleges said they are already struggling to retain faculty, whose salaries are more than 50% behind those in California, the state with the cost of living most similar to Massachusetts.

Comerford pointed out the state is working to rebuild the community college system, which has been underfunded for decades. Educators said without more money to hire and adequately pay more staff, including admissions and mental health counselors, students are being set up to fail.

Claudine Barnes, president of the Massachusetts Community College Council, said her full-time members are already overworked and most have additional part-time jobs to make ends meet.

"I get the sense that they want to basically see how we weather the storm of an influx of additional students and then they might decide to give us more money," Barnes observed.

Still, Barnes argued debt-free community college would be a game-changer for lower-income and first generation students, and schools are already drawing up contingency plans should the program survive budget negotiations.

Comerford added a proposed rapid task force would work to improve staff retention and working conditions and would include educators and others from the Department of Education.


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