MassReconnect makes community college free, but many of the women it’s designed to help are still held back by period poverty

One of the most anticipated programs in the 2024 Massachusetts state budget is MassReconnect, which will make higher education more accessible by covering tuition, fees, and books at community colleges in our state, starting this fall.

For young adults living in poverty, college is a pathway to a stable financial future – and MassReconnect will help them continue their education. But these students will still face barriers to a degree, and one of the largest is lack of access to menstrual care. Women can’t attend class or graduate college if they don’t have menstrual care when they need it.

While wait for legislative efforts to help make menstrual care more accessible, our Dignity on Campus program makes free menstrual care available to students struggling with poverty at local community colleges and state universities. There is no state or federal funding available for this work, so (like all our programs) Dignity on Campus is funded entirely by donations from our community. You can help us support college students in need by contributing to our Dignity on Campus Back to School campaign.

1 in 6 college students struggled with period poverty in 2022. Menstrual care is expensive, and after food and housing families often have nothing left for hygiene products. Period products can’t be bought with SNAP or WIC (or ANY benefit programs), so even families that qualify for help often don’t have menstrual care. MassReconnect Funds don’t cover the cost of menstrual care, so period poverty will still prevent thousands of women from completing college.

Left: Menstrual care from Dignity Matters at the Northern Essex Community College Food Pantry in Haverhill. Right: Products are brought to MassBay campuses in Ashland, Framingham and Wellesley.

Dignity Matters has provided free menstrual care to thousands of public middle and high school students since 2016 – and the burden of period poverty follows many of them to community college. To help them continue their education, we launched our Dignity on Campus program in 2020 with a pilot to provide free menstrual care to students in need at MassBay Community College and Framingham State University.

Over the next two years we expanded Dignity on Campus to Northern Essex Community College, Bristol Community College, and Middlesex Community College; starting in September we will add support at Cape Cod Community College, MassArt, Massasoit Community College, and Roxbury Community College. Dignity on Campus now helps more than 1,000 college students in need manage their periods with dignity every month.

Every menstrual care item these students receive from Dignity Matters is donated by our community or purchased at wholesale with your generous support. We can provide a student the menstrual care she needs for a year for just $36! If you’d like to help us support college students in need, please donate to our Dignity on Campus Back to School campaign. If we raise $30,000 in August, we will receive a $10,000 matching donation to fully fund the Dignity on Campus program for the entire 2023/24 school year. Thank you for your support!