Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) has signed legislation providing free community college to thousands of low and middle-income students in the Old Line State. The new law will provide tuition-free education to qualified full-time students who enroll in community college within two years of earning a high school diploma or a GED, beginning in fall 2019. It also creates grants for adults who are close to finishing their community college or university degrees.
“We are delighted to see that Maryland has joined the rapidly growing number of College Promise states broadening access to higher education with an expressed goal of increasing the number of college graduates prepared for 21st century jobs,” said Dr. Martha J. Kanter, Executive Director of the College Promise Campaign. “By reducing financial barriers for students to attend a community or technical college, Maryland is building an affordable path for low and middle-income students to acquire the skills and education they need for success in their communities. That’s good for Maryland’s students, families, and employers who need a pipeline of talent ready for the companies that are expanding or relocating to the state. Maryland is now the 18th state in the nation to create a statewide Promise program.”
Across the country, the number of College Promise programs is evolving rapidly as growing number of communities and states are launching initiatives that cover tuition and fees for hard-working students to attend a community college, technical school, or university. Some use public funds, others use private dollars, and many use a combination of both. In addition to funding tuition and fees, many College Promise initiatives provide mentoring, advising, and other support services to help students overcome barriers to completing their studies and earning their certificates and degrees.
Over the last two and half years, the number of College Promise programs has more than quadrupled with over 200 in development, underway, or expanding in 44 states. In the last year alone, free college legislation has passed in New York, Rhode Island, Montana, Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada, and Hawaii. Idaho and now Maryland have joined the list in 2018.
As momentum for free community college builds, leaders in states, cities, and towns now can build on the many examples of College Promise designs and funding models to make the promise sustainable for this and future generations. While local Promise leaders, state legislatures and governors address the formidable challenges of making college more affordable and raising the country’s percent of college graduates, they can now draw inspiration from College Promise programs with results. They now have the opportunity share the evidence they have collected and build out their Promise programs, ensuring that their better-educated residents are prepared to drive the nation’s social, economic, and civic prosperity forward.