State isn’t keeping its promises, officials say

Roxanne Ready, Editor-in-Chief

More than 20 years ago, the state government promised AACC and Maryland community colleges it would devote 29 percent of its higher education budget to community colleges each year, starting in 2012. It has yet to keep that promise.

If Maryland lawmakers approve the governor’s proposed budget, 2019 will be the seventh year the state has fallen short of that commitment.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2019 includes part of AACC’s day-to-day expenses. The operating expense budget of almost $29 million would increase by about $34,000 over last year’s.

But the proposed budget still does not reach the levels state legislators promised in a 1996 plan.

Lawmakers designed the Cade Formula in 1996 to grow community college funding to 29 percent of the state’s higher education budget, reaching that goal by 2012.

But legislators have changed the goal year seven times, according to the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.

In 2012, they changed the law so the state has until 2023 to reach the formula’s goal—11 years after the original goal year and 22 years after they first enacted the formula.

Rhonda Wardlaw, the director of communications for the Maryland Higher Education Commission, said in an email to Campus Current the governor’s budget meets the Cade funding goals with a record $261 million.

“Education is the No. 1 priority of the Hogan administration, and we will continue to make fiscally responsible and reliable investments in higher education,” Wardlaw said.

Melissa Beardmore, AACC’s vice president of learning resources management, said the college has increased tuition by $3 per credit hour each year since 2014, in part because the state is not meeting its original Cade goals.

“As a broke college student, [even a few dollars per class] makes a difference,” Nyia Curtis, the student member of AACC’s Board of Trustees, said.

According to MHEC, community colleges in the state would have earned more than $100 million between 2008 and 2016 if officials had not postponed fulfilling Cade funding promises.

“That’s a lot of money,” AACC President Dawn Lindsay told Campus Current. “If you think of how that could be divided up … it would be pretty impressive.”

Photo by Roxanne Ready
Although the governor’s proposed Maryland budget meets a goal set in 2012, that goal remains lower than state lawmakers originally promised in 1996.