Baltimore County residents struggling to find enough cash to enroll in one of the county's three community colleges this fall may be eligible for $500,000 in scholarship money.
The county put half the money in its budget this year, and the colleges are supposed to raise a matching amount from private donors.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden and college officials said the extra money is to help students frozen out of classrooms by tuition increases over the past five years.
Tuition for part-time students has increased from $33 per credit in 1988 to $50 this fall. Full-time students who paid $25 a credit in 1988 must now pay $40 a credit.
"Every time we raise tuition a bit, we force someone else out of the classroom," Catonsville Community College President Frederick Walsh said at a news conference held to announce the program yesterday.
The money will help the 1,500 county residents who qualified for financial aid last year but didn't get any because no more was available, Mr. Walsh said. It will also help students who aren't poor enough to qualify for other aid programs but still can't afford tuition, fees and books.
The grants ranging from $100 to $1,000 are available to part-time and full-time students enrolled for college credit. Noncredit students are not eligible.
Mr. Walsh said that 20 percent of the 44,000 students at Catonsville, Essex and Dundalk Community colleges received some aid last year.
The $250,000 in county money was divided among the three colleges based on their enrollments. Catonsville and Essex received $105,000 each, while the smaller Dundalk school got $40,000.
Mr. Hayden, himself a graduate of Essex, called the community colleges "the bargain in education in this state."
"This is how to do things in tough [economic] times," he said, referring to the requirement for matching funds.
County residents may apply for the new funds through any of the three colleges' financial aid offices starting today.