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Maryland lawmakers pass scholarship bill for community college students

Community college students in Maryland would have access to substantially more state scholarship money under legislation approved this week by state lawmakers, allowing some students to attend tuition-free.

The legislation would create a $15 million program, more than doubling scholarship money for eligible students, said Brad Phillips, director of policy analysis and research for the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. For students meeting certain qualifications, community college tuition would be free, Phillips said.

A lot of students look at the cost of a college education and decide not to go, said Phillips, but after a few years, realize they need to attend.

“This will really incentivize students to go immediately after high school and get their educations,” Phillips said.

To qualify, students would need to be recent high school graduates and Maryland residents, according to a news release from the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. They also would need to meet grade-point and income requirements.

Phillips said students would still have to apply for all other sources of need-based financial aid, including federal and state; remaining tuition costs would be covered by the program legislators approved this week. It would apply to students enrolling in community colleges in 2019. Those seeking workforce training certificates from community colleges would also be eligible.

It was unclear whether Maryland’s governor would sign the legislation, according to the community college association. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) “remains committed to helping more students achieve their educational goals and will closely review the legislation,” a spokeswoman said.

“This program will be a game-changer for many of our students. We certainly hope Governor Hogan signs it,” Bernie Sadusky, executive director of the association, said in the news release.

There are 16 community colleges in Maryland.