The Wicomico County Council, after several motions and amendments, passed a resolution to provide scholarships to Wor-Wic Community College — but did so with an income cap.
Resolution 79-2016 was approved Tuesday, after Councilman Marc Kilmer moved to amend and make eligible only students from homes with an annual income of $75,000 or less. That includes two-thirds of the county, Kilmer said.
Originally, the plan was to provide tuition for those from homes earning $110,000 or less per year.
Opposed was Councilman John Hall, who said $110,000 annually is not too high. “This can’t be anything but a benefit to our community,” Hall said.
“That’s if you can afford it, Mr. Hall,” Councilman Joe Holloway replied.
Councilman Matt Holloway agreed with Hall and said it’s important for the scholarship program to be approved.
Council President John Cannon reasoned that a family of four earning $75,000 per year is still 300 percent above the poverty level, “so we’re well beyond even what the federal government recognizes as in need of aid.”
“I think that’s very generous,” he said. The annual median income in Wicomico is about $65,000.
“This could be amended next year if we feel the $75,000 is not reaching the correct number of people in need,” Cannon said.
Before the final vote, Councilman Joe Holloway moved to amend the resolution further to include only United States citizens.
Kilmer seconded the motion, saying he did so for the sake of discussion, then said public schools don’t know if students are citizens or not.
Holloway withdrew his motion and moved again, “that we table this until we have better answers and have a full council because this is a multi-year commitment.”
That motion failed.
Holloway put the first motion – regarding U.S. citizens — back on the table, saying if it wasn’t passed, the county “would be paying for undocumented residents to be educated,” but Councilman Matt Holloway said there are students with green cards in the U.S. legally.
Attorney Rachel Harris, representing the county, said public schools subscribe to Maryland policy.
Cannon asked Holloway to withdraw the motion a second time, and entertained putting the matter back on the agenda as an amendment. Holloway withdrew it again, saying he didn’t have the support for it to pass anyway.
Holloway asked how the program will be rated for its success other than how much money the county provides.
Dr. Ray Hoy, who was at the meeting, came forward and explained various metrics are used in different communities. Measures of success include how many people enroll, how many finish the first and second semesters and where they go afterward.
“It’s a longitudinal study … we’re not going to know tomorrow. We’re not going to know a year from now. We’re not going to know two years from now,” Hoy said, but there are short-term and long-term data to measure success.
Kilmer asked for a trend analysis and Hoy replied data is segregated by full-time and part-time enrollment, but individual students are not tracked. “We haven’t had this program so we haven’t had tracking for these people,” he said,
Hoy said he can’t tell council where all graduates are, but said state officials follow them by social Security number to determine if they return to Wicomico County.
Councilman Joe Holloway said most students enrolling would be 18, and asked Hoy if, since they are adults, their families’ household incomes mattered.
Hoy explained the federal government, using its financial aid process, requires students to prove their independence and said that would be unlikely for an 18-year-old.
“They can’t live at home, or with a relative, even if they pay rent,” Hoy said, adding strict guidelines apply. “It’s not easy,” he said.
The idea for the scholarship program was launched in February, when County Executive Bob Culver proposed spending $1.46 million on tuition, with $252,000 being funded the first year, based on each student carrying 27 credits; $540,000 the second year, based on 27 credits; and $665,000 the third year, based on 27 credits for first and second-year students and 12 credits for third-year students.
The program is expected to eventually cost the county $665,000 annually.
Reach Susan Canfora at email@example.com.