The Community College of Baltimore County is putting up $35 million for students who qualify for tuition-free classes during the fall semester.
The college, which has a campus in Catonsville, is pooling money received from several public and private funding sources, including through federal and state stimulus packages amid the coronavirus pandemic and money raised through the CCBC Foundation — and “we are determined to give every penny of it to students who need us,” said CCBC President Sandra Kurtinitis.
“The phones are ringing off the hooks,” Kurtinitis said.
Students must meet various eligibility requirements to receive the aid, depending on the program for which they’re best suited; the college has set up a phone line and an online communication system for existing and prospective students to communicate with staff in CCBC’s enrollment office who will guide them to the program most appropriate for them.
“Right now, we have more pots of money,” said Bernie Sadusky, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. “And they all differ somewhat. [Students] need to contact their local community college and have a financial aid adviser talk to them about all the possibilities, huge opportunities to defer tuition.”
Kurtinitis said, “We’ve been able to do things for students with that money that we could never in an ordinary semester.”
The Maryland General Assembly in 2018 passed a bill establishing Maryland’s Community Promise, a $15 million program that doled out around $4.3 million to more than 1,200 community college students in 2019.
Many jurisdictions, including Baltimore County, already had community college scholarships in place, with varying eligibility requirements, Sadusky said. The county has included $1.7 million for its College Promise program in fiscal 2021, which CCBC expects will aid around 1,640 students, according to county budget documents.
CCBC, which besides Catonsville has full-service campuses in Dundalk and Essex, received approximately $9.3 million in relief funding through the federal CARES Act. At least 50% of that money was earmarked for direct distribution to students through emergency financial aid grants.
Some of the funding went to purchasing laptops for students without access to one during the state-ordered shutdown mid-March. The college also received $1.4 million from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration to support students seeking job-training courses.
“If you lost your job and that job may not exist anymore [post-pandemic], the road to employability is through the community college to get re-skilled,” Sadusky said.
The college hopes to recruit students who plan to take a full course load — 15 credits — for a semester, Kurtinitis said, but most of the programs that students can access require the student to enroll for at least six credits to qualify. Students taking non-credit courses through the college’s School of Continuing Education also could be eligible for tuition coverage.
For in-county residents, CCBC’s tuition rate equates to $122 per credit, according to the college.
Some 80% of CCBC classes with be held online in the fall, Kurtinitis said. The school also will repurpose some on-campus labs in the library for students who may lack adequate access to broadband internet or don’t have computers.
To see if a student qualifies, go to ccbcmd.edu/freetuition.
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