Sen. Cindy Friedman

Happening Today:

9 a.m. | Gov. Maura Healey will welcome attendees at the second day of BIO International Convention. | Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, 415 Summer St., Boston

10 a.m. | There are 21 bills up for comment in the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing related to prescription drug access, cost, and transparency. | Room A-1 and Virtual

10 a.m. | The Joint Committee on Financial Services hears 28 bills dealing with various types of insurance including four dealing with flood insurance liability. | Room A-2 and Virtual

11 a.m. | The Joint Committee on Revenue hears 49 bills related to tax credits and deductions, including one that would offer incentives to landlords who rent below market rates to seniors and families. | Room B-2 and Virtual

11:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Michelle Wu joins Superintendent Mary Skipper for an announcement on the city's high schools. | Outside Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, 75 Malcolm X Boulevard, Roxbury

7 p.m. | Gov. Maura Healey speaks at the New Commonwealth Fund Third Anniversary Celebration. | 521 Overlook at Fenway Park, 4 Jersey St, Boston

There’s “nothing radical” about a plan to offer free tuition to nursing students at Massachusetts community colleges, says state Sen. Cindy Friedman — “It’s just plain necessary.”

Friedman, who serves top roles in the Legislature’s Joint Committees on Health Care Financing and Ways and Means, is one of the many architects behind the policy proposal folded into the state Senate’s budget that would use $20 million in revenue from the state’s new tax on income over $1 million to cover costs for those attending community college nursing programs — building up a crucial training ground for an industry still reeling in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Hospitals are short some 19,000 workers, according to industry reports. Friedman said it doesn’t bode well for patient care or patients’ pockets.

To meet and then keep up with demand, Massachusetts will need 6,000 new nurses per year, according to U.S. Department of Labor projections. It’s challenging math for a  state currently producing about 4,000 registered nursing graduates a year.

Friedman said the Senate aims to “incentivize” students to study nursing at Massachusetts community colleges, saving roughly $11,000 in tuition on average, according to a review of program fees based on data from the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

It’s “one solution” that speaks to several of the complex issues facing Massachusetts as it emerges from the pandemic, said Friedman. Slashing costs lowers economic barriers to entry, making training for high-paying nursing jobs more accessible to immigrants and communities of color, diversifying the workforce.

Judith Pare, director of nursing education for the Massachusetts Nurses Association, called the plan a “good step” albeit “just one step” toward solving a complicated problem she says will take years of commitment and collateral. One challenge will be finding enough nursing educators, which are currently understaffed and underpaid, she said.

The program’s fate lies in the hands of six lawmakers — three from the House and three from the Senate — tasked with hashing out a slate of major differences between the budget bills passed in each chamber. The conference committee will decide which policies make the cut in a final compromise budget bill for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. 

Senate President Karen Spilka’s goal is to make community college free for all residents by 2024. With predictions that labor shortages already strangling industries across Massachusetts will only get worse over the coming decade, Friedman says it’s never been more important to  “make sure that our community colleges are doing the work that we really need: building up our workforce.”

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The Boston Herald

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State House News Service

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The Boston Globe

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Boston Business Journal

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Telegram & Gazette

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South Coast Today | The Boston Globe

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Salem News

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Washington Post

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Erin Tiernan was a Editor and Author of MASSterList