Maryland Community College Promise Scholarships

The Maryland General Assembly recently passed new legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Larry Hogan, creating the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarships, a program to help eligible students afford community college.

While some have called this free college, that's not an accurate phrase. The basic elements are outlined below, and more detailed information will become available as the Maryland Higher Education Commission develops the regulations.

When does it start?

Pending approval of the $15 million appropriation required by law to fund the scholarship awards, the program is expected to begin in fall 2019.

What are the eligibility requirements?

  • Applicants must apply annually with the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC)
  • Applicants must enroll in a Maryland community college within two years of high school graduation or completion of a GED in Maryland.
  • Applicants must be eligible for in-state tuition.
  • Applicants must have a high school GPA of at least 2.3 on a 4.0 scale and enroll as a candidate for a vocational certificate, a credit certificate or an associate degree.
  • If an applicant is single or resides in a single-parent household, their annual adjusted gross income (AGI) may not exceed $100,000. If an applicant is married or resides in a two-parent household, their annual AGI may not exceed $150,000.
  • Credit students must enroll full time for at least 12 credits per term.
  • Applicants must not have previously earned a bachelor’s or an associate’s degree. He/she must also not have been awarded another educational grant or scholarship that covers the applicant’s full cost of attendances at a community college.

How are the scholarships awarded?

  • Initial awards will be provided to recipients based on greatest demonstrated financial need.
  • In subsequent years, priority will be given to prior year recipients who remain eligible for the program.

If I am awarded a scholarship, what do I need to do?

  • Recipients must sign a letter of agreement at the time of the initial award.
  • Recipients must use an in-state address on the recipient’s state income tax form.
  • Recipients must commence full-time employment in the state within one year after completion of the vocational certificate, certificate, or associate degree.
  • Recipients must continue to use an in-state address on the recipient’s state income tax return.
  • Recipients must maintain employment in the state for at least one year for each year that the scholarship was awarded.
  • Scholarships will be converted into a student loan payable to the state if the recipient fails to fulfill the service obligation noted above.

What if someone is eligible, applies, and doesn’t receive a College Promise Scholarship?

Eligible applicants not receiving an award will be notified and placed on a waiting list.

Why is this called a "last-dollar" scholarship?

All other financial aid must be calculated before the scholarship is awarded, and students must complete the FAFSA or any other applications for state or federal financial aid. If ineligible to submit a FAFSA, students must qualify for in-state tuition.

How do you stay eligible?

  • Students must submit a timely annual application.
  • Students must remain eligible for in-state tuition.
  • Students must continue to meet the income limitations of the bill.
  • Students may hold the award for three years after enrolling, with priority given to recipients who remain eligible.
  • Students must be enrolled continuously and maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.

What is the scholarship amount?

For those who qualify, scholarship awards are limited to $5,000 per recipient per year, or actual tuition (whichever is less). Tuition means the basic instructional charge for courses offered and includes mandatory fees. Initial tuition awards will be provided to recipients based on greatest financial need.

What is my obligation if I receive the scholarship?

Students are required to maintain employment in Maryland for at least one year for each year the scholarship is awarded. Scholarships convert to loans if the recipient fails to fulfill the service obligation.

Gov. Hogan signs legislation for

Community College Promise Scholarship

Released: May 8, 2018

Additional Resources:

Maryland Association of Community Colleges


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