College Promise Campaign Roundtable Highlights the Success of Free-Tuition Programs; Calls for Creativity on the Financing Side to make them More Sustainable

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Article by: Tabresha B. Langham

LARGO, Md. (April 13, 2018) -  Former Obama administration Under Secretary of Education Dr. Martha Kanter joined Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) President Dr. Charlene Dukes, Prince George’s County government and business leaders, and PGCC students in a roundtable discussion on Monday, April 9, 2018, to discuss the College Promise Campaign and the impact it has on students’ lives.

The College Promise Campaign advocates for free two years of community college for hard-working high school graduates who choose to start at a community college. Prince George’s Community College launched the Prince George’s County Scholarship in 2017 after Maryland House Bill 1087 was introduced by Delegate Alonzo Washington (D), District 22, to help Prince George’s County high school graduates pay for tuition and fees not covered by other financial aid.

Students who attended the roundtable reflected on their experience since receiving the scholarship. For most, it eased the burden of worrying whether their families could afford for them to continue their education.

Dr. Kanter commended the students for their commitment to their educational success. “The more stories that can be told about students like you, the more opportunities for others,” she explained. College Promise Campaign understands the impact that free two years of community college can have on students and communities, but students’ voices are “more essential” to make the public impact understood.

Maryland lawmakers recently approved legislation that would “double the amount of state scholarship money available to low-income community college students in the state,” according to Inside Higher Ed. However, this legislation has not been signed into law. While some states are taking the initiative to create tuition-free programs for community college students, some are still asking “how can we make this financially sustainable?”

Dr. Kanter believes it’s going to take a great amount of influence and examples to show that such programs are investments rather than handouts. And this week, during the “This is College” week of Community College Awareness Month, PGCC and the other 15 community colleges in the state of Maryland aim to do just that.

Maryland community colleges offer degree, certificate, and skills training programs to support workforce development for the region’s fastest growing industries such as nursing, allied health, cybersecurity, and hospitality. Creating free-tuition programs for high school graduates to attend community college will ensure that there is talent to meet demand for those jobs.

Recent high school graduates are not the only students who can benefit from free or reduced tuition. The Prince George’s County Promise Scholarship is currently only for high school graduates, but at community colleges, like PGCC, where the average student is 28-years-old, College Promise Campaign and the Promise Scholarship don’t solve the issue of cost and affordability for many.

Dr. Dukes raised this concern at the roundtable. There is a need for free-tuition programs for “adults who can’t qualify for the Promise Scholarship based on how it’s written now,” she said. “The fact that we have this opportunity and can hear how it can change the trajectory of families and communities” shows that something similar could be beneficial for adult students as well.

About Prince George’s Community College
Named a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance designated by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security (2015-2020), Prince George’s Community College (PGCC) provides high-quality education and training for the progressive and career-oriented residents of Prince George’s County. From new high school graduates and career seekers to more seasoned professionals and senior citizens looking to enhance their skillsets, PGCC is comprised of students who represent a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and goals. Serving nearly 40,000 individuals annually, the college is the first choice for higher education for residents of Prince George’s County. Collaborative partnerships, responsive degree and training programs, and a commitment to student success enable PGCC to address diverse education and workforce development demands. For more information, visit the college website at Prince George’s Community College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, 3624 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104; (267-284-5000); Middle States Commission on Higher Education is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation.