Delegate Morgan teases bill that would allow community colleges to offer bachelor's degrees
Like they do in Florida, and 23 other states
Last week, Republican state delegate Matt Morgan announced his intention to introduce a bill during the upcoming legislative session, that would allow Maryland’s regional community colleges to seek the accreditation required of them to start offering bachelor’s degrees — whereas now, of course, they can only offer associate’s degrees.
Morgan is proposing this local solution in response to President Biden’s sweeping student loan debt transferral diktat, which will force taxpayers to absorb the cost of a generation’s college debt, yet does nothing to address the real and persistent problem: four year colleges and the degrees they offer are too expensive.
But a less expensive alternative may become available in Maryland if this yet-to-be written bill gets through, and select four year degrees become attainable at the community college level where the cost-per-credit is significantly lower than the traditional four year college options.
One key stipulation in all of this, is that these new four year degree programs must correspond directly to local workforce needs, meaning degrees towards professions like teaching and nursing would be eligible, but the more vague liberal arts specializations like communications and media would not be.
Morgan points to Florida as being an example of a state that has implemented a solution like this and found success with it. Florida’s legislature greenlit their policy way back in 2001, and now, according to a recent study by New America, four year community college graduates in the state outearn their two year graduate counterparts by $10,000 each year, without the encumbrance of loads of student loan debt.
Other states took notice of Florida’s success, and now 23 of them allow community colleges to offer targeted bachelor’s degrees in at least some capacity, including California, Michigan, Arizona, and South Carolina — a distribution that shows this occurring outside of traditionally partisan lines.
Arizona’s program went live in 2021, and allows all community colleges to offer four year degrees, while additionally stipulating that the price of the baccalaureate level courses not exceed 150% of the corresponding associates level courses, seemingly a preventative measure to ensure that the community colleges don’t take this as an invitation to balloon to the size and cost of the standard four year colleges they are meant to be an alternative to.
Morgan mentioned how his colleague, delegate Mark Fisher, had introduced a similar bill back in 2016, but despite attracting bipartisan support amongst the southern delegation, never amounted to much in the chambers of Annapolis — the timing just wasn’t there.
Maybe the timing will be right come this next legislative session.
Reacting to this news colorfully but accurately, was Carroll’s delegate elect Eric Bouchat, who considers himself a “strong advocate of community college” and supports anything that undermines the “scam” that traditional universities have become.
Fellow state delegate elect Chris Tomlinson reacted at length, saying:
"If the bill that Delegates Fisher and Morgan plan to introduce mirrors HB966 (from the 2016 session), I will absolutely support that legislation. At least 17 states (including Florida and New York) allow community colleges to offer at least one type of bachelor's degree and Maryland should join those ranks. If Democrats really believe that all Americans should have the opportunity to attend college without taking on soul-crushing student loan debt, they should get behind this proposed bill as well. I would love to see Carroll Community College, which is already ranked the number one community college in Maryland and 10th nationwide (in 2021), offering undergraduate programs. Especially in the fields of education and nursing, where we constantly hear in the news that there are shortages in those labor categories."