State measure could help finance college completion

The Near Completers and Maryland Community College Promise Scholarships Bill, passed as the 2018 Maryland Legislative Session drew to a close, will give those who worked on a college degree, then stopped, the opportunity to finish.

“This will really help Maryland. This is a great opportunity,” Dr. Ray Hoy, President of Wor-Wic Community College, told the Salisbury Independent this week.

A $15 million annual appropriation will begin in FY 2020 and be available to recent high school graduates within two years of graduation or GED on a first-come, first-served basis. Students with the lowest income will receive first consideration.

Students will be required to enroll for 12 credits toward a degree or certificate, and possibly a continuing education certificate, at a community college in Maryland, have an annual income of up to $100,000 for single-parent households or $150,000 for two-parent households, be available for three years, complete a scholarship application, maintain a grade point average of 2.5 and work in Maryland for one year for every year the scholarship is given.

Students can receive up to $5,000 per year for tuition and fees.

If requirements are not met, the scholarship will convert to a loan.

Hoy said he’s pleased the annual family income stipulated in the bill is higher than the $75,000 cap in the Wicomico County Economic Impact Scholarship.

“Both pieces of this bill are very important. The near completers component provides for students who have completed 45 credits at a community college or 90 credits at college but didn’t finish. They can come back and get a 33-percent discount on tuition. The Maryland Higher Education Commission is going to start an advertising campaign to find these people who didn’t complete their degrees,” Hoy said.

Maryland has a goal of having 55 percent of its working population, aged 25 to 64, college educated by 2025.

The bill will lead to a more highly skilled workforce and those who are educated will earn more, Hoy said.

Hoy said in 2013, the College and Career Completion Act, a component of the Near Completers bill, passed, but wasn’t fully funded.

Although he didn’t know how many students the new legislation will affect, he said with the Completion Act, 45 students registered at Wor-Wic, indicating “it’s a great opportunity for students.”

Students stop attending college “because life gets in the way,” Hoy reasoned.

“I really think that’s the answer. They run out of money and can’t complete their education. Other times there are family issues. It could be parents. It could be their children or it could be themselves,” he said.


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