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Baltimore mayor plans for free community college starting in 2018

Mayor Catherine Pugh’s recent plan to offer free community college for all Baltimore public high school students continues to gather momentum. Her original announcement was included in her August anti-crime plan, surprising many in attendance.

The estimated operating cost of the program will be 1.7 million dollars in the first year, according to the state’s legislative services department. This will jump to 3.4 million the following year. Despite the seemingly high costs, analysts are not too concerned, seeing it as a drop in the bucket of the nearly 3 billion dollar operating budget.

In addition, budget analysts are confident the costs will be curbed by 92 percent of community college students already receiving Pell Grants. It is unclear at this time if the legislation would only cover expenses not met by a Pell Grant or if it would apply to all graduates regardless of whether they received a form of financial aid or not.

Successful implementation of this plan would add Baltimore to the growing list of cities offering high school graduates free community college. Nearly 200 cities across 40 states offer similar programs. Leading the way was Tennessee back in 2014, when free community college tuition was established for the entire state.

Josh Heidke, junior social work major, noted: “I know a lot of people come here after going to [Baltimore City Community College] so I’m sure it’ll help those people.”

This legislation that aids the graduating class of 2018 could lay the foundation for future transfer students at UMBC in 2020.

Part of the drive behind the legislation is that with rising costs of secondary education institutions, more students will be able to pursue their education further if they are free from community college debt.The overall hope is that as college graduation levels rise, crime numbers will fall in accordance with Mayor Pugh’s anti-crime plan.

The planned legislation has proved so popular that Mayor Pugh has received support from even some of her most vocal critics. Councilman Brandon Scott was excited by the prospect and suggested funding the free tuition by charging fare on the currently free Charm City Circulator.

While the implementation details are still in their early stages, Pugh and others involved in the project are confident they can have the program in place for the graduating class of 2018.