This month, community college is now free in the state of Maryland for qualifying families, thanks to a law passed last year by the Maryland General Assembly.
In case you missed it: Qualifying residents receive up to $5,000 in annual scholarship money. Those who qualify are students whose families earn less than $150,000 a year and or less than $100,000 in a single-parent household.
The Community College of Baltimore County has been gearing up for this big change, says president Sandra Kurtinitis.
Already in place at CCBC is the Baltimore County College Promise program, which covered tuition and mandatory fees for eligible students after they had applied for all other financial aid, such as Pell grants or state aid. The new law expands scholarship eligibility to a greater number of students.
“That’s going to be able to help many more of our families,” Kurtinitis says. “There isn’t a huge upsurge in enrollment for next year yet, because I think not even a lot of people know about the Maryland College promise programs at this point. However, if it produces such enrollment growth, we would certainly want to hire more people. Right now, we’re well positioned to handle our students.”
To qualify for free tuition across the state, prospective students must enroll in one of Maryland’s 16 community colleges within two years of finishing high school or obtaining a GED. According to guidelines, students must take 12 credit hours of courses and have a high school grade point average of 2.3.
Kurtinitis says these programs would help families who otherwise might not be able to send their children to college full time, even at the affordable tuition of the community colleges.
“I know I speak for my colleagues when I say we are all very grateful to both our counties and our state legislators and our governor who have been as visionary as they have to put a program like this in place,” she says. The cost to the state is $15 million and while Kurtinitis says she does not want to be dismissive of that price tag, “as I know it will go a long way. It’s a start, and we hope that our programs will grow and that eventually, almost anybody with the right college readiness, attitude and aptitude will be able to seek a credential or a college degree with the promise scholarship.”