Cecil College officials give update on state legislation
jiannetta@ cecilwhig. com
— A bill that would have nearly doubled state aid to Cecil College has failed to pass the Maryland House of Delegates, college officials said Thursday.
House Bill 526 would have increased the unrestricted state aid granted to four of Maryland’s smallest community colleges, including Cecil, from $ 418,600 to $ 800,000 starting in fiscal year 2018. By fiscal year 2021, the colleges would have seen an increase of $ 416,900 over the state funding allocated to them under the current law.
Although Cecil College
President Mary Way Bolt, along with several other college presidents, testified in support, the bill never got traction in the house, Chris Ann Szep, the college’s vice president of institutional advancement and government relations, told the Board of Trustees on Thursday.
“This bill did not get legs, so this bill is dead this year, and that’s because any bill that had an increase in revenue was pretty much dead on arrival down there,” Szep said.
In addition to the small community colleges funding bill, Szep also updated the board on several other bills in the legislature that the college is keeping its eye on as the session comes to an end on April 11. Many of the bills the college supports are also part of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges ( MACC) legislative agenda, Szep noted.
Chief among those is Senate Bill 339 which would increased the amount of state funding community colleges receive under the Senator John A. Cade Funding Formula, the main formula the state uses to fund community colleges. When the formula was created in 1996, community colleges were supposed to get 29 percent of their operating budgets from the state.
But the state hasn’t fully funded the Cade formula in years and this year, the college is slated get 20.5 percent of its budget from the state. Senate Bill 339 would have seen that percentage increase to 23 percent this year with the state fully funding Cade in 2020, Szep said.
“Community colleges are getting deeper and deeper in the hole in regards to their operating budgets and our counties and our students are picking up a lot more of that financial burden,” she said.
The community colleges also asked the state to do its part when it comes to fiscal year 2017 capital budget requests. The community colleges asked for about $ 123 million to fully fund all the requests but the state only granted about $ 60 million, Szep said.
Cecil College was similarly disappointed by the defeat of the Financial Aid for Workforce Training bill, which would have split $ 2 million among the state’s 16 community colleges to support noncredit students working to earn certificates or licenses. Unfortunately, 32 pages of amendments were attached to the bill and it was watered down so much that it’s no longer viable, Szep said.
The college is also lobbying against some bills in the legislature, including Senate Bill 465, which would alter the way a community college tuition waiver for disabled students is applied. The bill removes the requirement that a student’s financial aid be put toward their tuition first, before the waiver is applied.
Maryland community colleges collectively spend about $ 10 million each year on unfunded mandates in the form of tuition waivers and while the college supports disabled students, it can’t afford an- other unfunded mandate, Szep said.
Cecil College was also happy to see a bill that would allow community college employees to engage in collective bargaining, which would have placed a large financial burden on the college, die in the legislature, Szep said.
A few other bills that are still viable that the college supports are Senate Bill 764, which protects the rights of student journalists, and Senate Bill 928, which would create a task force to study the nursing shortage and which Bolt testified on behalf of, Szep said.
There are also a number of Maryland free community college bills that will be studied over the summer. None of these bills have a viable revenue source, which is worrisome to the college, Szep noted.