Baltimore mayor launches start of free college program

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has formally launched a program that will provide free tuition for community college for all students graduating from city public schools starting in 2018.

The Mayor’s Scholars Program, which was announced last summer and again at a City Hall news confrence Wednesday, is an attempt to make higher education accessible to more city students. Although 92 percent of city community college students already receive federal grants that cover the bulk of their tuition, the remaining costs can still be a barrier for many students. The mayor's program covers the difference not covered by grants and loans for the total cost of tuition for an associate’s degree or certified job training program. The program does not cover room and board.

An estimated 200 to 300 additional students are expected to attend community college under the program, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million per year.

Pugh said she created the program to make it clear to every high school student in the city that college was a possibility.

“Rather than step up, they’ll step back,” if they think it’s not affordable, Pugh said.

Gordon F. May, president of Baltimore City Community College, who attended the City Hall event said he was “totally elated” when he learned that Pugh was committing to making the college free to attend.

“We have in just the matter of weeks become the envy of the other 15 community colleges in the state of Maryland,” he said. “We just feel very, very good about it.”

liz.bowie@baltsun.com

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