The legislation grants the tuition discounts to undocumented immigrants who, among other conditions, have graduated from a Maryland high school. Because students taking dual or concurrent enrollment courses through Montgomery College are still in high school, they don’t qualify for the reduced rate.
For undocumented high school students, tuition and fees at Montgomery College will go from $445.20 for a three-credit course at the in-county rate to the out-of-state rate of $1,172.40.
The legal loophole has the most impact on programs such as the College Institute that Montgomery College offers in partnership with the county’s public schools.
The College Institute allows students to take classes — such as introduction to business, criminal justice, and introduction to Flash — taught by Montgomery College faculty and for college credit on the campuses of Gaithersburg, Thomas S. Wootton, John F. Kennedy and Seneca Valley high schools.
“We want all of our students to access all of the programs here at Gaithersburg,” Principal Christine Handy-Collins said. “To have some students not be able to do that doesn’t feel good as a principal.”
High school students often take dual or concurrent enrollment courses through community colleges to get a head start on college. The credits earned are generally cheaper and can transfer to other colleges and universities.
The programs also allow students to try courses to make sure college will be the right fit for them, Handy-Collins said.
“They get a taste of higher education outside of high school,” she said.
The wording in the new law will have an impact on Montgomery County students that it will not have on students in other counties and at other colleges because Montgomery College was the only school in the state offering in-county tuition rates to undocumented students prior to the Dream Act’s passage. To follow the letter of the law, Montgomery College will have to charge higher rates to students who have not yet earned a high school diploma.
Elizabeth Homan, a spokeswoman for the college, said about 550 high school students are taking classes through Montgomery College. The college doesn’t have an estimate of how many of those students have declined to sign up for classes this semester because of the increased costs. But in December, the college sent letters to 76 high schoolers who were enrolled last fall but didn’t file complete information relating to their citizenship or immigrant status.