By Artur Agaronyan
“I guess I never went to [financial aid]. I thought I wouldn’t get accepted. I ended up paying out of pocket” a student that wished to remain anonymous remarked.
Affordable higher education is essential, said Martin O’Malley, governor of Maryland.
“We believe that the more a person learns, the more a person earns,” he said.
Each generation strives to educate kids at a higher level than the previous generation did, one of the “geniuses of our nation,” O’Malley said.
By 2006, the then-current administration had greatly increased college tuition, O’Malley said. The administration treated higher education as they did toll roads, he said. He explained “If you’re going through, you pay.”
Certifying a certain level of competency from students, known as competency-based learning, should be adopted by universities “rather than simply multiplying the number of seats by the number of lecturers and looking for bigger and bigger checks from parents and students and the state,” O’Malley said.
A student who doesn’t go to college because of financial concerns doesn’t only affect him or herself but also those around him or her, a former MC student said.
“For me, it was reasonably affordable, but I was far from a full course load. I don’t think I would have been able to afford that,” the student said.
“More people look to community colleges for job training or re-training, degrees or certificates to bolster job qualifications, and low-tuition alternatives to 4 year programs [in a bad economy,]” said Tammy Peery, professor of English at Montgomery College.
O’Malley attended Catholic University before attending University of Maryland School of Law, graduating in 1988, he said.
O’Malley’s parents’ support allowed him to finish his undergraduate schooling and go on to law school, which O’Malley was able to pay for by himself, he said. “[Tuition] was in the neighborhood of $3,500,” he said.
“We all benefit as a nation when every generation’s educated at higher and broader levels,” he said.
When O’Malley was running for re-election, college affordability was the top polling factor among people over 65, O’Malley said.
“Whether it’s because a lot of grandparents are having to help pay to put their kids through college or whether it’s because they remember more distinctly the benefits of the G.I. Bill and all those people that were able to go to college only because we chose as a country to make that a priority, that was our top polling persuadable among seniors,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley wished his administration could have pushed career and technical education further than it went, O’Malley said.
“If you’re from a poor family and you can’t afford college, you know, somebody telling you fairly and equally you should go to college isn’t gonna pay your tuition bill,” he said.
A Career Technical Education certificate after high school is the predominant path to college in some of the poorer areas of Maryland, O’Malley said.
Students are living through a time of significant change to an unsustainable healthcare model that was overdue, O’Malley said. “I think you’re going to see a similar sort of change happening in higher education in the years ahead,” he said.
“The battle continues. The struggle continues, we’re by no means done. We still as a people pay more for college education than do people in any other industrialized country on the planet,” O’Malley said.
*Photographs taken by the governor’s press office.