ANNAPOLIS – Enoch Bevel, the first of his six siblings to attend college, joined three of his Montgomery College classmates Thursday night to talk to lawmakers about the detrimental effect rising tuition has on their prospects.
The quartet spoke at the first of three public hearings held by the legislative Special Committee on Higher Education on Affordability and Access.
Bevel’s siblings pooled their money to send the freshman to college, and if tuition climbs too high, he said, they won’t be able to afford it.
“Montgomery College offers me opportunities,” he said. “That’s a real thing. Montgomery College is (a) stepping stone, and you (can’t) take that away from the students.”
Fellow students from his Albert Einstein High School in Montgomery County thought they would go to prestigious universities, but enrolled in Montgomery College because “it’s affordable, (and) because it’s quality education,” Bevel said.
Access to higher education in Maryland has been an issue since budget deficits forced cuts to all state colleges, which then imposed tuition increases averaging 20 percent.
Concerns about the high cost of education prompted Speaker of the House Michael Busch to appoint the committee to review Maryland’s college and university funding structure and long-term expectations of higher education.
“(Busch) was very concerned with cuts that have been made to higher education in general,” said Delegate Richard Madaleno, a committee member. “This is important to students and families today and the economic future of tomorrow.”
The committee’s chief goals are to maintain a quality competitive system, plan predictability for the future and keep higher education affordable and accessible for middle- and lower-income families.
Delegates on the committee heard from about a dozen administrators, as well as students from several institutions, and various faculty members for almost five hours.
Speakers included University of Maryland College Park President C. Daniel Mote, University System of Maryland Board of Regents Chairman Clifford Kendall, and Maryland Independent Colleges and Universities Association President Tina Bjarekull.
“We want our leaders to recognize the university system has taken the burden of cuts . . . there’s an increasing demand for our services,” said William Kirwan, University System of Maryland Chancellor. “We need to restore investment in higher education.”
Bevel was joined by Montgomery College student body President Nate Parry and sophomores Victor Ontiveros and Ryan McGoff in asking delegates to help continue the traditions of quality education at the school.
“Montgomery College . . . provides us with valuable wisdom and knowledge,” said Parry, also a sophomore. “Our community college is the future of Montgomery County, and each generation should have the same quality education.”
It was important to hear from representatives of the system, but especially the students, Madaleno said.
“They are the consumer,” Madaleno said in a later interview. “(It was) good to hear what the impact is.”
Bevel said tuition decisions represent an investment.
“When you deliberate on your decision, really take heed, because students in Montgomery College and all colleges are the future. This is our future.”
The outcome of the meetings could affect legislation in future sessions, Madaleno said.
The committee is scheduled to hold two more meetings: Dec. 1 at Salisbury University and Dec. 15 at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Both begin at 6 p.m.