All graduating seniors at the Dearborn STEM Academy in Roxbury will be admitted to a two-year program at the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology, the college announced Friday morning.
The admission does not come with a free ride — students will still have to apply for aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to pay tuition, which this year was $8,475 a semester for certificate and associate degree programs. But the Dearborn, with help from the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts and other donors, secured about $100,000 in scholarship funding to help make up for any costs federal aid doesn’t cover.
“Access and opportunity really means breaking down barriers, and the college application process over the years has become more and more complicated,” said Aisha Francis, president and chief executive of the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology. “We want to strip all of that away and do something that is markedly different here, and to really improve their sense of confidence and their likelihood to accept the opportunity to attend college, whether it’s ours or not.”
The goal was to make students feel more welcome in college.
“They’re already enough,” Francis said. “They’re already qualified.”
The graduating class of 83 students gathered at the Dearborn for the surprise announcement Friday morning, and were not immediately sure why television news cameras and Mayor Michelle Wu were visiting their school. After Francis announced their admission, they came to the front of the room one by one to receive an admission letter and a gray Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology T-shirt with the words “Eat. Sleep. #SlayTech. Repeat” on the back.
Wu spoke of her own experience being the first person in her family to attend college in the US, trying to find answers and navigate the higher education and financial aid system by herself as a high school senior.
“No one in my family had done that before in this country,” Wu told students. “And it’s a lot. Senior year is already a lot, even when you’re not coming out of a big pandemic, even when you’re not thinking about what to do and how to make all the pieces fit together.”
Senior Jaedyn Baxter said the opportunity sounded appealing to him. He had not yet applied to colleges but is interested in studying automotive technology and maybe bringing one of his siblings to school with him.
“It’s about college, so it’s important,” he said. “I felt happy about it, that we all got to have a chance at the scholarships.”
Both Dearborn and the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology have had significant transformations in the last few years. Dearborn, a school that had educated middle schoolers near what is now Nubian Square for more than a century, reopened in 2018 with a gleaming new $73 million building for about 600 students from sixth to 12th grades. It is operated by an outside partner, the Boston Plan for Excellence.
Benjamin Franklin, the two-year technical college that offers associates degrees and certificates in 12 subjects from automotive repair and electrician training to computer engineering and health services, announced this week that it would sell its South End campus and move to Nubian Square, not far from the Dearborn.
In the last year, Head of School Darlene Marcano has had many conversations about college with seniors. At first they focused on the basics: Are their credits in place? Are their grades good?
“But I think as time draws near, and they’ve started receiving some acceptances, they gone through the financial aid process, they’re worried about leaving the nest,” Marcano said. “Can I make it if I go to California? What would happen if I stayed home instead of on campus? Those sort of more social emotional pieces, I think those are really hitting home right now.”
Gal Tziperman Lotan is a former Globe staff member.