Baltimore Co is Working to Make Community College Free for Residents

Baltimore County is pursuing free community college education for its residents, in an effort to meet the changing workforce landscape

It’s no surprise that Maryland’s community colleges rank second in the nation, mainly for their affordability and accessibility and growing role in preparing a qualified, diverse workforce. Now, Baltimore County is deepening its commitment to provide free community college and help fill labor and skills gaps in the County and State’s economy — a growing trend around Maryland.

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski discussed his administration’s commitment to free community college education in a May 25, 2023, op-ed in The Baltimore Banner:

Our nation is facing a widening skills gap — one that has been exacerbated by the disruptive economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic — creating an environment in which too many job seekers are not equipped with the skills to succeed in a rapidly diversifying and evolving global economy.

In the past, a high school diploma was enough to build a pathway to the American Dream. Unfortunately, this is simply no longer the case. Economists have estimated that by 2031 only 30% of jobs nationwide will be available to workers without a college degree. The economy of today — and tomorrow — demands more than a high school diploma.

He continued:

In Baltimore County, we decided we could no longer wait for others to alleviate these challenges, opting instead to act now to ensure this generation can develop the skills to increase their earnings and succeed in the new economy. America’s community colleges are uniquely equipped to help students and families find an affordable and efficient pathway to higher education and achievement.

While federal efforts to provide universal community college seem to remain in perpetual gridlock, we are moving forward in Baltimore County, showing how government can deliver on the promise of tuition-free community college.

Enrolling nearly 50,000 full- and part-time students every year, Community College of Baltimore County is an essential partner in Baltimore County’s local education system and in the Baltimore region’s workforce development pipeline. Whether students pursue a degree or job training for a trade, CCBC opens doors for anyone looking for a high-quality and accessible education.

One way that County Executive Olszewski plans to prioritize free community college tuition is through his proposed FY 24 budget :

  • Expanding the Community College of Baltimore County’s (CCBC), College Promise Program to provide near-universal, free community college to any Baltimore County household making less than $150,000 a year for residents seeking a full-time degree, part-time degree, or workforce certification program; and
  • Freezing in-County tuition at CCBC for all residents for the sixth consecutive year.

Olszewski closed his op-ed with a plea to Congress to support similar efforts nationwide:

Making community college universally affordable and attainable should be an initiative that congressional leaders of both parties wholeheartedly rally behind. It’s the fiscally prudent and socially responsible path forward in a post-COVID economy.

Read the full op-ed.