ESSEX — This past legislative session was very good for community colleges in the state, said Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) President Sandra Kurtinitis at a Board of Trustees meeting last Wednesday.
She lauded the efforts of her fellow community college presidents across the state to bolster the proportion of funding for community colleges compared to four-year universities, with what she called ‘bipartisan support’ in the legislature.
For starters, the college lost $10 million in annual funding during county and state budget cuts last June, and Kurtinitis is optimistic about restoring that funding soon. But that’s not all. Until now, CCBC could expect to receive 22 cents to every university dollar in state funding. This year, that increased to 27 cents, and it’s teed up to be 30 cents next year.
“It doesn’t sound like much when you talk about it that way,” Kurtinitis said, “But this is very significant for us.”
Among the other legislative victories Kurtinitis noted:
Senate Bill 886
Titled the ‘Transfer With Success Act,’ SB886 requires public institutions of higher education in the state to report denied academic credit transfers to enrolled students and the institution from which those students originate, explaining the reasons for the denials. The bill also mandates an oversight mechanism to review these credit transfer denials.
“It’s a bill that’s intended to provide a little more transparency for our students who transfer to four-year schools,” Kurtinitis explained. “Again — small gain, has significance.”
SB886 was sponsored by Anne Arundel County Democrat Sarah Elfreth and passed on April 2.
Senate Bill 664
SB664 mandates that each county school board ‘to encourage and assist’ high school seniors filing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The concept is still in the early stages — this particular legislation requires school boards to share an outreach plan with the State Department of Education by October of 2022
Kurtinitis said that while the bill outlines a pilot program, rather than the full monty, she’s not deterred.
“We’re happy to have it tested,” she said. “We want to encourage more students to file the FAFSA.”
SB664 was sponsored by Charles County Democrat Arthur Ellis and also passed on April 2.
Senate Bill 746
Through a number of provisions, SB746 seeks to address the collective bargaining rights of community college employees, codifying procedures for selection of a bargaining representative and capping the number of bargaining units at each college to four.
More than eight years in the making, Kurtinitis said that conversations around the bill with bargaining representatives allowed higher education leaders to push the proposed start date back from this year to September of 2022. She anticipates an appetite for collective bargaining among full-time and adjunct faculty, alongside other staff.
“We know how to work with unions,” she said. “We have very good relations with our unions.”
SB746 also passed on April 2 and was sponsored by 21 Democrats, including west side Baltimore County state senators Delores Goodwin Kelley (District 10), Shelly L. Hettleman (District 11), Charles E. Sydnor III (District 44) and Clarence K. Lam (District 12).
All in all, Kurtinitis described the session as full and productive, noting a handful of other issues CCBC has eyes on, including a push for broadened broadband access, as well as support for career and technical education programs with high schools in another year of Kirwan funding.
“As far as we’re concerned, this is a really strong support agenda for higher ed,” she said. “But I don’t care about the four-years — I care about us.”
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