The Maryland General Assembly recently passed new legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan, creating the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarships, a program to help eligible students afford community college.
While some have called this free college, that's not an accurate phrase. The basic elements are outlined below, and more detailed information will become available as the Maryland Higher Education Commission develops the regulations.
The student must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, online before the March 1, 2020 deadline. Please remember students will need to complete a separate application with the Maryland Higher Education Commission by the above deadline date also. The Promise Scholarship creates opportunities for students to attend one of Maryland’s public community colleges by providing tuition assistance for any student eligible for in-state tuition. Please be advised that funding is awarded on a first-come-first-served basis.
When does it start?
Pending approval of the $15 million appropriation required by law to fund the scholarship awards, the program is expected to begin in fall 2019.
Applicants must enroll in a Maryland community college within two years of high school graduation or completion of a GED in Maryland. Applicants must have a high school GPA of at least 2.3 on a 4.0 scale and enroll as a candidate for a credit certificate or an associate degree. If an applicant is single or resides in a single-parent household, their annual adjusted gross income (AGI) may not exceed $100,000. If an applicant is married or resides in a two-parent household, their annual AGI may not exceed $150,000. Credit students must enroll full time for at least 12 credits per term.
All other financial aid must be calculated before the scholarship is awarded, and students must complete the FAFSA or any other applications for state or federal financial aid. If ineligible to submit a FAFSA, students must qualify for in-state tuition.
Students may hold the award for three years after enrolling, with priority given to recipients who remain eligible. Students must be enrolled continuously and maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
For those who qualify, scholarship awards are limited to $5,000 per recipient per year, or actual tuition (whichever is less). Tuition means the basic instructional charge for courses offered and includes mandatory fees. Initial tuition awards will be provided to recipients based on greatest financial need.
Students are required to maintain employment in Maryland for at least one year for each year the scholarship is awarded. Scholarships convert to loans if the recipient fails to fulfill the service obligation.