County HS grads want college tuition for free

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County HS grads want college tuition for free

Photo by Daniel Salomon

Photo by Daniel Salomon

Photo by Daniel Salomon

Photo by Daniel Salomon

Jennifer Pery, Reporter

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AACC students said graduates of Anne Arundel County high schools should be able to attend the county’s community college for free.

In an informal survey of 20 students across campus, 15 said community college should be free, although some questioned how the county would pay for it.

“I think it’s a good idea, honestly, I mean it’s fair,” second-year nursing student Catherine Jackson said. She pointed to Tennessee, Oregon, New York and San Francisco, which waive community college tuition for most residents.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh is pushing a plan to allow Baltimore public high school graduates to attend Baltimore City Community College for free. Pugh has estimated the annual cost of the plan to be about $1.5 million.

Second-year AACC creative writing student Lydia Ray said she would welcome free tuition here, but she said she would worry about the potential price tag.

“I think it’s a great idea, but maybe not [full scholarships],” Ray said. “I think that would take a lot of money from the county. But more scholarships would be great for people [who] need them.”

First-year business management major Leann Geisler agreed, predicting that fees and other costs could increase to make up for the lack of tuition. “Like, would the price of books go up?” she asked. “Just like the smaller things, the things that we get here for free, would that change? Would things like [free] tutoring and the Writing Center change?”

Still, other students advocated for free tuition, citing the financial benefit to students.

“For a lot of people, [community college] is their only choice,” first-year plant science major Brendan Bill said. “A lot of families around here are pretty low-income, so if you finish [high school] with a decent [grade-point average] and you want to go to college, it makes sense that you should be able to go for free.”

He added, “[Scholarships] can be hard to get, and a lot of people just don’t have the family resources,” to pay out of pocket.

But not all students said free college is a good idea.

Fourth-year environmental science major Will Divert said he was against the idea of subsidizing college unless he saw “a lot of evidence that it [would not] impact taxes. … I am personally a Libertarian and very much not big government. I am much more ‘pull-your-own-weight.’”

First-year business administration major Kristin Kohout questioned whether the quality of education would slip if tuition were free.

“If we’re not paying anymore, then who’s not getting paid?” she asked. “Are teachers not getting paid? Or if taxes go up, then we end up paying anyway.”

Kohout offered an alternative to free tuition: Four-year universities, she suggested, should offer scholarships to AACC students who graduate with a 4.0 grade-point average.