Ce­cil Col­lege of­fi­cials give up­date on state leg­is­la­tion

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

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

NORTH EAST

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.

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