ANNAPOLIS — Del. Ken Kerr’s bill that would offer tuition assistance to students with an associate degree is supported by local higher education institutions, but the second-year lawmaker has added an amendment that aims to offer more scholarship assistance.
Kerr’s proposal, House Bill 167, allows students statewide to attend a nonprofit institution of higher learning at the same cost as an average four-year rate for tuition and fees for public colleges and universities throughout Maryland’s higher education system. In Frederick County, that means students could attend Hood College or Mount St. Mary’s University at a lower cost.
Mount President Timothy Trainor supported Kerr’s bill at a hearing before the House of Delegates’ Appropriations Committee, but suggested an amendment to provide more assistance to those affected.
That amendment, drafted by Kerr (D-Frederick), would allow students who use the “2+2 Transfer Scholarship Program” — which encourages students who attend community college to finish their degree at a four-year public institution — to receive scholarships of full annual tuition and fee rates, except at the University of Maryland, Global Campus and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Trainor, like Kerr, said the proposal would help commuter students. Kerr’s bill requires that students live either more than 30 miles away from one of the state’s public higher education institutions, or more than a 40-minute drive.
“This year, we have 69 former students from Frederick Community College enrolled at the Mount’s two campuses in Frederick County, with all but two who are commuter students,” Trainor said. “These hardworking students who typically are balancing work and school, and some raising a family, need financial support to make their educational dreams a reality.”
Kerr also worked with Sara Fidler, president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association, to draft the amendment. In submitted testimony, she said that if Kerr hadn’t widened the scope of the 2+2 scholarship, it would apply to only four institutions statewide: Hood and Mount St. Mary’s, along with McDaniel College in Westminster and Washington College in Chestertown.
Andrea Chapdelaine, president of Hood College, also thanked Kerr for working with her staff to draft the amendments. Previously, Kerr’s bill offered $1,000 or $2,000 in annual assistance, depending on what those students studied.
“We thank the sponsor for working with us to craft a solution that is not institution-specific, but rather focuses on the student and will accomplish our shared goal of ensuring that all students have access and choice in postsecondary education,” Chapdelaine said in submitted testimony.
The legislation and amendment was opposed Tuesday by Patrick Hogan, vice chancellor for government relations for the University System of Maryland. Hogan, a former state delegate who served parts of Frederick County, said he does not support directing state money to private institutions, and noted regional higher education centers like the one in Hagerstown.
“We think there are plenty of public options across the state that are provided to students,” Hogan said.
But Kerr said in an interview Wednesday that the Hagerstown location doesn’t offer many classes, especially those needed in much of Frederick County’s job market.
“[It] has very minimal programming, very little of which is going to prepare ... Frederick County college students for the types of careers we’re attracting to Frederick [County], with the biomed, biotech, pharmaceutical manufacturing [industries],” Kerr said. “They’re all bachelor’s of science degrees. They’re simply just not offered.”
He said that he’s waiting to see how the Appropriations Committee reacts to his amendment. If it doesn’t get out of committee, he’s committed to working after this session to get some proposal passed in the future.