Proposed Changes to the Community College Promise Program

Fixing a Broken Promise

Legislation that would decentralize administration of the Community College Promise (CC Promise) program has been introduced in both the House and the Senate. MACC has testified in support of these bills.

Currently, CC Promise applicants often receive award decisions too late to register, enroll and start classes on time. Consequently, millions of dollars intended to help Maryland students attend community college, go unused every year.

HB 923 and SB 662 would shift the awarding of CC Promise funds from MHEC to the community colleges. MACC believes this shift would streamline the CC Promise program, helping many more students to benefit.

In FY2022, just over one-third of the allocated funds were used as intended. The rest of the money had to be returned to the State, per Maryland law.

CC Promise Funds

Only $5.7 million out of $15 million was distributed to eligible students in FY22

Our students have too much financial need to miss out on funding the General Assembly intended for them. This legislation, if approved, would remove the administrative barriers that have prevented full award of the CC Promise. 

MACC strongly supports these bills, and we appreciate the leadership shown by the bills’ sponsors, Senator Brian Feldman and Delegates Ben Barnes, Jared Solomon and Stephanie Smith.

$ Millions Left on the Table

The original CC Promise legislation passed in 2018 for implementation in the 2019-2020 school year. The CC Promise allocates $15 million/year to eligible community college students. That fund has never been fully utilized in 4 years.

Why has CC Promise Aid Gone Unused when Student Need is so Great?

•             Today’s community college students are not the students that Maryland’s financial aid system was created to serve. 

o             The average age of a Maryland community college student is 24.  They’ve been out of school for years, most have jobs, and are returning to earn a credential to improve their quality of life.

o             70% of community college students attend part-time because they are working and/or have family responsibilities.

o             Almost 50% are enrolled in noncredit, continuing education programs to learn a skill or earn career credentials/licenses. (Note: Many of these ConEd courses lead careers in high-demand workforce areas.)

o             They do not have sufficient financial resources necessary to attend school.

•             Maryland does not currently offer a large, need-based financial aid program that fits our students who have the characteristics described above. 

o             Though a need-based program, criteria of the Howard P. Rawlings Educational Excellence Awards (EEA) are impossible for most community college students,

             EEA applies to credit only

             EEA requires FT enrollment – 15 credits/semester, often resulting in students stopping out because they cannot work and go to college full-time.

             In academic year 2022-23, only 3,200 community college students received EEA funding; that’s less than 2% of the students enrolled in Maryland’s community colleges.

We must change the Community College Promise so it meets the needs

of today’s community college students.

The most effective and efficient way to fix the broken CC Promise system is to decentralize its administration. This solution will help the largest number of students in the shortest period of time.


Decentralization is not new. Currently, there are two State financial aid programs – intended specifically for community college students – that are managed at the community college level. These are the

•             Part-Time Grant, and the

•             Decentralized Educational Assistance Grant.

Moreover, a recent evaluation of MHEC’s Office of Student Financial Assistance (OSFA), by the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA), recommended decentralizing several state financial aid programs so colleges could award funding directly to students. HB 923 and SB 662 align with OPEGA’s recommendation. 

Decentralize CC Promise Administration

Centralized administration of the CC Promise program has inhibited its ability to make awards. Students have faced red tape and unworkable deadlines.

Our colleges already manage decentralized State financial aid programs and the CC Promise should be one of them. This would allow students to get the prompt answers and assistance they need to clarify their educational and career pathways.

A decentralized CC Promise program could:

•             Align application timeframes with college program offerings

•             Streamline CC Promise review and distribution through direct oversight by college financial aid offices 

Restore the Promise

The Community College Promise is a broken promise.

This legislation creates the potential for Maryland to make huge strides in fulfilling the goals of the CC Promise program. With realignment, the CC Promise can serve many more community college students.

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