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Eliminating barriers to education: Carroll Community College leaders want students to apply for financial aid

Carroll Community College leaders said they want students to take their money. Well, the college’s money. It has a lot of it and staff wants to give it away.

College officials says they recognize the financial hardships some families have faced that could impact decisions on attending. However, administrators are encouraging students to contact them if they have concerns for paying for the spring semester, which starts Feb. 1.

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“At Carroll, we want to encourage students to stay enrolled in as many classes as they feel they can be successful completing,” Kristie Crumley, associate provost of student affairs and marketing, said. “The college does not want finances to be the obstacle to continuing their education or in seeking short-term career training.”

John Gay, director of Financial Aid, said they try to view students on a case-by-case basis to determine which “pot of money” the student is eligible for.

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President James Ball said the community college’s Foundation board approved about a quarter-million dollars to be added to the scholarship fund “for the purpose of helping students during this particular time.”

Similar to Maryland’s Community College Promise Scholarship, the college has, Carroll Promise, a $15 million funding source, Ball said. It’s been referred to as “free college” but Ball said students using it must successfully complete at least 12 credits in three years to keep it. Cuts to the budget due to the pandemic caused them to cut the recipients down by about half, he said. About 96 students were awarded last school year but only 40 qualified this fall.

The president also mentioned they have a pot of emergency funds, close to $35,000 from donations, if a student, for example, had a car accident and needed to find a way to pay for school.

Ball said the federal government passed a higher education emergency relief fund that will be available to the college.

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“And the Biden administration says there’s more coming,” he said.

Funds are also available for Continuing Education students, or students who take the night and weekend classes. The Workforce Training Certificate programs include Workforce Development Sequence scholarships. It provides up to $2,000 for approved programs. The GEER Funding for Drone credit and non-credit classes give up to $800 per student. Those students also qualify for the Maryland Promise scholarships, Miller Entrepreneurial Scholarships and Carroll Community College Foundation Continuing Education Scholarships.

“If you are unemployed, the Business and Employment and Training Center may also provide assistance,” Libby Trostle, vice president of continuing education and training, said.

Funding was also made available for small businesses. Miller, the college’s resource for Carroll small businesses and entrepreneurs, has expanded its focus to help students pivot their small businesses to survive during the pandemic. Its scholarship funds now help students attend workshops and helps them navigate local, state and federal relief funds.

Advantage C, a source for workforce development and consultation, now provides online services like training and coaching. Courses are given to help adapt to working remotely and the Leadership Peer Advisory Group helps leaders move their organizations forward during this time. Also, a lab is being built with the emergency relief funds to support regional manufacturers.

Ball said he’s proud of school staff for taking on one of the most significant challenges, which they “basically made it through with flying colors.” He said the students have been fantastic and although there were some withdrawals, there’s little difference compared to normal times.

Similar to colleges around the nation, enrollment at Carroll Community College was lower in the fall, Provost Rosalie Mince said. However, its enrollment data was better than many other regional community colleges, she added.

“Our Admissions and Advising Offices did lots of outreach to our students to ensure that they were ready for the new educational formats for the fall,” she said, adding that college provided hotspots, laptops, housing and food. “Student retention from fall to spring has remained high for Carroll as we look at spring 2021 enrollment information.”

The campus closed back in March for two weeks and transferred to virtual learning. When the campus reopened, the capacity was limited to 35% of the on-campus daily average. Health and safety protocols were implemented.

Students had four options of instruction: face-to-face for Allied Health courses and other math and science classes, remote synchronous instruction, asynchronous and hybrid. A grant from the Foundation office allowed students who were enrolled in science lab activities while at home were given at-home lab kits for free.

Few students and staff tested positive and the campus avoided on-campus transmissions during the fall, Mince said, noting that an outbreak occurred recently in the Child Development Center where six people tested positive for the virus. It did not impact the rest of the college.

“We don’t want our students to let barriers, especially financial barriers, stand in the way of their education or training for a new career, or advancing their career,” Ball said. “Just give us a call or come to campus so that we can assist you.”

If interested in finding out more about school funding, call the college’s financial aid office at 410-386-8437.

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