Boost for community colleges Gateways for higher ed: Governor, legislature raise funding, spirits of two-year schools.

April 18, 1996

LONG THE stepchildren of state higher education, Maryland's community colleges got a major boost in respect -- and in funding -- from the General Assembly this session.

After nearly a decade of frozen state aid, the 17 county-based two-year colleges received a 10 percent increase for next year and the promise of more than $8 million in additional aid in each of the succeeding four years.

By the year 2002, state aid will amount to 26 percent of the cost of a full-time student at the community colleges, up from 21 percent this year. This annual allocation will be tied to funding levels for state four-year colleges.

Over the past 15 years, tuition at the community colleges has risen three times faster than the increase in state funding and 1 1/2 times faster than local funding. The result is that students have been paying a greater share, with annual tuition averaging $1,800 and further increases planned for fall.

Community college officials were pleasantly surprised by their good fortune in Annapolis this session. Recent budget lobbying efforts had failed until a former employee of one of those community colleges, a professor named Parris N. Glendening, moved into the governor's mansion.

Carroll Community College, for example, expected a cut in state aid of $100,000, and instead ended up with a $40,000 increase. The college also got a $75,000 state matching grant for a new amphitheater.

Harford Community College scored with a $1 million authorization for its new Higher Education and Applied Technology Center. Baltimore County's system, undergoing a restructuring, got $1.5 million for new buildings at Catonsville and Essex campuses. Baltimore City Community College is erecting a $18 million life-sciences building with state funds.

Community colleges deserve this sustained state aid if they are to successfully continue their mission of providing post-secondary education, continuing education and job-training. More students enroll in Maryland community colleges than in state four-year schools. They are primary gateways for higher education. And while they are local institutions at heart, they play a vital economic development role in preparing Marylanders for the work force.

Pub Date: 4/18/96

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