A new tuition category in Maryland

An ad by Hagerstown Community College in Maryland announcing a reduced tuition rate that the college hopes will help recruit students from neighboring counties in Pennsylvania. (Image: HCC)

Residents of certain out-of-state counties are now able to attend eligible Maryland community colleges at a lower tuition rate. As a result, some colleges could experience an enrollment boost.

A state law enacted in Maryland in May allows the board of trustees of community colleges bordering other states to reduce the out-of-state tuition rate for residents of neighboring counties.

Maryland colleges have three tuition levels: for students who live in the county served by the college, for those who live in the state but out of the county, and out-of-state students.

The new law permits trustees to add a fourth level: a new tuition rate that would be in between the in-state out-of-county rate and the out-of-state rate.

Twelve of the 16 community colleges in Maryland are eligible to take advantage of this law, as they serve counties bordering another state, says Bernard Sadusky, executive director of the
Maryland Association of Community Colleges.

The rationale, he said, is to “create opportunities for students in border counties that are now cost prohibitive.” Many potential students in rural areas of Pennsylvania, for example, are closer to community colleges in Maryland than in their own state. Also, some Maryland colleges offer programs not available at colleges in border counties in other states.

“We had a few community colleges in western Maryland who said they think they can be more competitive if they had a tuition that was less than the out-of-state tuition,” Sadusky says. In Maryland, out-of-state tuition is three times higher than the in-county rate.

Hagerstown Community College (HCC) and Allegany College of Maryland (ACM) were the key proponents of the new state law, he says.

Recruiting across the border

“We are excited to be a part of the initial implementation of this new Maryland law that now allows us to extend a tuition discount to residents in neighboring out-of-state counties, which have long been a part of our immediate service area and economic development region,” says HCC President Guy Altieri.

Students at Allegany College of Maryland, which could experience an enrollment boost due to a new tuition rate for out-of-state students from neighboring counties. (Photo: ACM)

Approximately 20 percent of HCC students come from out of state, mostly from bordering counties in Pennsylvania, says spokesperson Elizabeth Kirkpatrick. “We are optimistic that the new rate will entice even more students from those areas to attend.”

HCC has just launched an advertising campaign to promote the new rate to residents of Franklin and Fulton counties in Pennsylvania. The college also can offer the new rate to residents of Berkeley, Morgan and Jefferson counties in West Virginia and Loudoun County in Virginia.

Beginning this fall, students from those counties will pay $230 per credit, compared to $246 for students from ineligible out-of-state counties. The new rate will save students $48 on each three-credit course and at least $960 on a 60-credit associate degree.

David Jones, vice president of advancement and community relations at ACM, expects the new tuition rate won’t become effective at ACM until fall 2018. Meanwhile, the college’s research staff is analyzing enrollment and tuition data to determine the best way to implement the new law.

ACM already attracts many students from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, so an increase in the number of out-of-state students needs to be balanced by the potential decrease in the tuition rate, Jones says. Nearly half of the students enrolled in ACM in fall 2016 were out of state.

“We want to implement this in a way that is sustainable and affordable,” Jones says, and without it resulting in a net loss of revenue.

Regional discounts

There are also longstanding regional programs allowing tuition breaks for out-of-state students.

The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), coordinated by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, has a regional tuition-reciprocity agreement that allows out-of-state students to apply to any of the 150 participating two- and four-year institutions in its 15 member states at 150 percent of the in-state tuition rate.

Some of the participating colleges restrict the number of WUE students and/or limit the discount to certain majors.

The New England Board of Higher Education’s Tuition Break program allows students to enroll in community colleges or public four-year institutions at a discount – but only if they enroll in an approved major not offered in their home state.

The program allows students from any of the six states in New English – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont – to apply to a college in any of the other states in New England.

The regional discount is based on the college’s in-state rate, up to a maximum of 175 percent. The amount of the discount varies widely across the region: It’s $1,380 at Central Maine Community College, for example, and $6,630 at Berkshire Community College in Massachusetts.

About the Author

Ellie Ashford
is associate editor of Community College Daily.
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