Free tuition brings up high school enrollment numbers


Lexi Grieder

More public high school students, like Chesapeake High School senior Audrey Guinn, are taking classes at AACC this semester. Because of a 2022 law, they receive free tuition at state community colleges.

Devan Grubb-Hayes, Reporter

The number of high school students who take classes at AACC increased by approximately 30% after the Maryland Legislature passed a 2022 law to give high schoolers free tuition at community colleges.
In spring 2023, 1,552 dual-enrollment students were enrolled at AACC, compared with 1,201 in spring 2022.
“That’s the biggest thing with these colleges,” JT Hartlove, a Chesapeake High School senior who takes computer tech and public speaking classes here, said. “It’s just money. And I mean, it costs a lot of money to go to college in the first place. So if they’re going to make it free for high schoolers, it’s a good in.”
The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future passed and made tuition free at Maryland community colleges for public high school students. The legislation did not make enrollment free for home-school and private school students, who get a 50% tuition discount.
Sara Eger, director of instructional pathways and partnerships, said Anne Arundel County Public Schools will pay for students to attend AACC.

Some high school students say free tuiton is one of the reasons they take classes at AACC. Shown, dual-enrolled student JT Hartlove. (Lexi Grieder)

Eger said the law is beneficial for students wanting to dual enroll.
“Improving students’ access and expanding students’ opportunities, I think that’s what people saw in it,” Eger said. “That’s what they saw in the value of the blueprint.”
Audrey Guinn, a Chesapeake High School senior who takes classes at AACC and plans to major in education, said free tuition was a big factor in choosing whether to enroll.
“At some point, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go or not,” Guinn said. “But then since I had that option, it was what motivated me.”
Kolton Tracey, a Chesapeake High School senior who takes history and English classes at AACC, also said free tuition convinced him to enroll here.
“It’s one of the only reasons I’m going,” Tracey said. “If it wasn’t free, I would have gone straight to a university.”
Another student said the free tuition helps him focus on college work.
“Being able to come to community college and not have to worry about paying tuition is a stress reliever,” Nathan Busch, a Chesapeake High School student, said. “It lets me focus on getting my credits and it saves me a lot of money.”