Classes While on Unemployment

Training Opportunity Program (TOP): Earn a Certificate or Degree

The Training Opportunity Program of the Massachusetts Employment and Training Law allows the Division of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) to waive an active work search by claimants who meet certain eligibility requirements. This means that claimants can continue to collect their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits while in agency-approved training.

Students are responsible, however, for finding and obtaining funding for their training. Under certain circumstances, participants may be eligible for up to an additional 26 weeks of UI benefits while attending full-time training. To be potentially eligible for up to the 26-week extension, you must apply to DUA before your eligibility period ends.

Am I eligible?

You may be eligible for approved training if you:

  • Have an eligible claim for UI benefits
  • Are permanently separated from your previous employer
  • Are unlikely to obtain suitable employment based on your current skill level
  • In need of training to become re-employed

Additional Requirements

The program of your choice MUST:

  • Be full time – at least 20+hours/week of supervised class hours for vocational/technical training or at least 12 credit hours per semester for a college program
  • Be intensive so that you are able to complete it within two years or less (including vacations, class breaks, internships/externships etc.)
  • Provide vocational/technical or basic skills training
  • Clearly identify the occupation for which you will be trained

Get Started: The MWCC Enrollment Process

Contact MWCC and ask to speak to someone about the Training Opportunity Program. You will be guided through the following process. Staff will also help you to fill out the appropriate paperwork that you will need to file with DUA.

  • ApplyOnline or at the Gardner, Leominster, or Devens campuses.
  • Schedule a placement test or provide prior college transcripts: Contact the Testing Services department at 978-630-9244. Prior college transcripts showing completed college-level English and math courses may be provided to waive any testing requirements.
  • Attend a SMART Start to register for classes: At SMART Start you will meet with our Advisors and discuss your test scores/transcripts, your chosen program of study, and ultimately register for courses. Important: Select the training program that is best for you and that will help you find employment in your new occupation.
  • Obtain a Training Opportunity Program application: Call the DUA’s TOP’s Unit at 617-626-5521.
  • Meet with a TOP Advisor: When developing your educational plan with an MWCC advisor, please remember that TOP requires that you complete your program within two years. You must attend full-time (20 hours per week or 12 credits per semester). Unemployment benefits may end before the completion of this program. Applicants are advised to speak with a DUA representative to find out about the length of their unemployment benefits.
  • Submit proof of immunization: Massachusetts law requires that students present a physician’s certificate or school immunization records to be registered at an institution of higher learning (some exceptions may apply).
  • Find funding for your education: The Division of Unemployment Assistance does not have funds to help pay for your training. DUA’s approval of your training means only that DUA will waive the requirement that you look for work while you are collecting unemployment insurance, and that you may be eligible for up to a 26-week extension of your UI benefits while you are attending training.To help secure funding to help pay for your education, begin by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you need any assistance in applying for financial aid, contact the Financial Aid Office at 978-630-9169. You should also check with your local career center to see if they have training funds available.
  • Submit your TOP application: Submit your forms at least three weeks prior to the start of training and before you eligibility period ends.
  • Once you receive approval, you may begin your program of study!

Eligible Programs

Note: If you have previous college experience and could finish the degree or certificate you previously started, this may also qualify for the Training Opportunity Program.

Training Opportunity Program benefits are subject to change without notice and MWCC is not responsible for changes to the program.