New Community College Promise Scholarship, signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan May 8, is making community college more affordable all across Maryland beginning in the 2019-2020 school year.
The latest of 17 states to pass a law of this nature, Maryland’s scholarship highlights the Hogan Administration’s goal of making college more affordable and reducing student debt.
Given the problem of college affordability, the need for a law which makes higher education a feasible option for more people and combats the largest factor that hinders student from pursuing a degree is apparent.
“We know for sure [that] poverty is continuously the number one barrier to college completion,” says Montgomery College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard. “This legislation . . . will allow us to have a pathway for students to come to college in their communities.”
Although the media has portrayed this policy as ensuring free tuition for all, the scholarship has eligibility requirements. Those eligible include students in a one-parent household earning under $100,000 and students in a two-parent household earning under $150,000. Among other requirements, students must have a minimum GPA of 2.3 and enroll in a Maryland community college within two year of obtaining their GED.
The scholarship is a last dollar scholarship, meaning eligible applicants must exhaust all options of federal student aid before the scholarship takes effect. In addition, the program’s $15 million statewide allotment means that all eligible applicants are not are guaranteed to be awarded money, so awards will be need based.
Raising college completion rates and promoting the possibility of higher education for all were majors motive of the scholarship’s creation. “There are families in Montgomery County that don’t even consider college as an option, and that’s the opposite of what we want,” says Marcus Rosano, Montgomery College media and public relations officer. “If the [scholarship] could just get the conversation of college into a household that maybe wasn’t thinking about it prior, then that’s great.”
In addition to promoting education, the scholarship proves to be an investment in the state’s and also Montgomery County’s economy, coming full circle. It is shown that 77% of MC graduates stay in Montgomery County after they are done with their education, and in turn enter the local workforce. “That’s another huge deal,” adds Rosano.
Proponents of the bill also emphasize that an educated workforce leads to a more lucrative economy. “[Maryland has] to have a skilled workforce and folks with a knowledge base, and [the Community College Promise] provides that opportunity,” says Bernard J. Sadusky, Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.
Although a scholarship like this only exists for community college in Maryland, Hogan has expressed a desire to extend this kind of legislation to four-year colleges, similar to New York’s Excelsior Scholarship in 2017.