Maryland’s Community Colleges: Here’s Where They Landed in the 2023 Legislative Session

Maryland’s community colleges are critical infrastructure to meet the state’s educational and workforce goals. Counties and MACo are proud to support community colleges in and out of the legislative session.

Every legislative session, several bills are considered targeting the unique needs and experiences of Maryland’s community colleges and the students that attend them. Top priorities for community colleges and their respective advocacy association, the Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC), often include operational and capital funding, streamlining the transfer process, and incentivizing enrollment and deepening dual-enrollment programs. The 2023 session was no different: MACC’s top priorities for the year were to:

1. Maintain operating budget funding at the full statutory intent of the Cade formula.

2. Achieve a capital budget allocation in line with the requested funds.

3. Decentralize administration of the Community College Promise program.

In a recent newsletter, MACC noted that “the above 3 areas are the most critical sources of State funding for our community colleges and our students” and that in the 2023 legislative session:

MACC achieved its most important goals. MACC attributes much of this success to our advocates in the Maryland General Assembly and the Governor’s office for understanding the value of investing in community colleges.

Maryland’s counties are major funding partners and provide technical assistance to the state’s 16 community colleges, and, as such, MACo was proud to support their pursuit of their 2023 legislative priorities.

How did community colleges fair?

Operating Budget 

For the second year in a row, the State funded the community colleges as the legislature intended when the Cade formula was developed 26 years ago – at 29% per full-time equivalent student (FTES).

The 29% FTES means that for every $1 the State gives public 4-yr institutions, it gives the community colleges 29 cents. Considering the local support community colleges receive, we believe 29% represents an equitable distribution of State monies between the 4-year and 2-year public higher education institutions.

FY24 Operating Budget allocation to community colleges:

  • $393.3 million, a 10.8% increase over last year for the 15 Cade-funded colleges
  • $45.8 million, a 5% increase over last year for Baltimore City Community College, which is funded separately

In addition, the operational budget provides grants for various programs impacting community colleges:

  • $10.6 million for Small Community College/Appalachian grants
  • $6 million for statewide and health manpower grants
  • $3 million for ESOL grants

Capital Budget

Before the community colleges’ capital budget request is sent to the General Assembly, it is carefully vetted for county support in a process that takes a few years and culminates in the development of the MACC Capital Prioritization List. Projects on that list are prioritized using a consistent formula. Before the session begins, a formal request for capital funds is made by the colleges, through the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC).

FY24 Capital Budget allocation to community colleges

  • $54,529,000 in authorized funds for 13 capital projects
  • $39,226,000 in pre-authorized funds for the continuation of 4 projects in FY25.

These projects include libraries, STEM facilities, workforce training centers, roof repairs, a student services center, and more.

Additionally, Baltimore City Community College, which is funded separately, was allocated $4.2 million from the capital budget. Funding of $1,184,000 was also provided to complete the design of the expansion of the Bard Library Learning Commons building.

Community College Promise Program

According to MACC, since its implementation in 2019, the Community College Promise program’s obstacles have been significant enough that less than half of the allocated funds have been distributed to students.

MACC notes in a recent newsletter that decentralization of the program to the community colleges via passage of HB 923 will create a more student-friendly CC Promise program.

Decentralization will allow:

  • Prompt verification of student eligibility
  • Alignment of CC Promise application timeframes with college program offerings
  • Streamlined CC Promise application review and fund distribution to eligible students

Expanded eligibility:

  • Part-time students are now eligible for the CC Promise, this is critical because 70% of Maryland’s community college students attend part-time.
  • Non-credit students, although technically already eligible, were unable to access CC Promise funds due to administrative timelines that didn’t align with community college workforce training programs.

Program-level changes:

  • Community College Promise funding remains at $15 million per year but Promise funds will now be distributed to each college based on its Pell-eligible student count.
  • If a college doesn’t utilize all of its allotted funds, the money will be redistributed to other colleges during the award year.
  • Each college can make awards, as long as student eligibility is verified and records are maintained for 5 years.

Educational Access (EA) and Guaranteed Access (GA) Grants:
HB 923 also modified the EA and GA grants, with the below changes taking effect July 1, 2025:

  • Removing the GPA requirement
  • Increasing the age limit to 26
  • Extending eligibility up to six years post-high school
  • Reducing the required score for the diploma by exam

Facilities Renewal Grant Funding 

The community college Facilities Renewal Grant program provides funding to 8 of the 16 colleges in alternating years. The grant value is 5% of the capital budget, capped at $500,000 per college, so the total awarded is no more than $4 million per year.

This year, the grant provided $2,587,000 to 8 community colleges, at $323,375 per college. The colleges receiving the funding are Allegany College of Maryland, Anne Arundel Community College, Cecil College, College of Southern Maryland, Harford Community College, Montgomery College, Prince George’s Community College and Wor-Wic Community College.

The Governor also provided general funds of $15 million in a dedicated purpose account allocated by the Maryland Department of Budget and Management for additional projects at 15 community colleges, providing $1 million for each college.

Read the full MACC newsletter report on the 2023 legislative session.