Yesterday in Annapolis, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan signed the milestone Near Completers and Maryland Community College Promise Scholarships Bill which allocates $15 million per year in need-based tuition aid for eligible community college students. Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and Speaker of the House Michael Busch joined Governor Hogan to sign the legislation that passed during the final 10 minutes of the 2018 Maryland General Assembly session. The governor and presiding officers were joined by numerous other elected officials, stakeholders, and community leaders.
“This visionary legislation demonstrates that the legislature heard us when we said that for our students, poverty —not aptitude, ability or aspiration—is the number one barrier to a degree,” said Dr. DeRionne P. Pollard, president of Montgomery College. “It interrupts a discouraging reality: that only eight percent of people in the lowest economic tier earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. Radical inclusion has long been a practice at Montgomery College (MC) and this legislation is a policy that will promote it throughout the State of Maryland.”
By 2020, 69 percent of Maryland jobs will require a postsecondary education according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, while about 40 percent of Maryland’s high school graduates don’t enroll in any postsecondary education within one year of graduation. Meanwhile, Maryland employers in high-demand fields contend with unfilled positions and insufficiently skilled applicants.
“This is a win–win for our students and our state,” said Dr. Bernie Sadusky, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. “It’s a win for our students, most of whom are low-income, work and have family responsibilities. And it’s a win for Maryland because a more educated workforce is the engine of economic growth.”
The program, which begins in fall of 2019, requires students to access all other eligible financial aid before Maryland’s College Promise scholarship funds, up to $5,000 per year, are awarded. Recipients must work in Maryland one year for each year of scholarship awarded, or the scholarships convert to loans and must be repaid.
“Postsecondary education is vital to fueling Maryland’s economy with ready workers and more than a majority of new jobs in Montgomery County will require a postsecondary education—from a certificate to a baccalaureate degree,” Dr. Pollard added. “The Pell grant is simply not enough to help more students obtain the needed education and training to compete and succeed… Even at community colleges, Pell grants frequently do not cover the cost of attendance, leaving students to cover the balance.”
Other requirements include full-time enrollment in a community college for a vocational certificate, a credit certificate, or an associate degree, within two years of graduating high school or completing a GED; high school GPA of 2.3 or higher; and an annual adjusted gross income of not more than $100,000 if the applicant is single or resides in a single-parent household, or $150,000 if applicant is married or resides in a two-parent household.
Maryland joins several other states with statewide College Promise programs, and over 200 local programs nationally. The legislation also provides $2 million over five years to students who are close to finishing degrees at community colleges and four-year institutions. These near-completer students can receive up to one-third of tuition due.
Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, plus workforce development/continuing education centers and off-site programs throughout Montgomery County. The College serves nearly 60,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.
Photo courtesy Gov. Hogan's Office Photographer:Joe Andrucyk