Last month, some Maryland community college students skipped class.
“My professor was OK with it,” said Austin Gannon, one of the seven students in Annapolis representing Anne Arundel Community College (AACC) and the Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC) for Student Advocacy Day. It’s because Gannon was part of a record crowd of nearly 400 students from across the state that met with legislators and lobbied for funding.
Barbara Vinnier, chair of Community College Presidents and President of Chesapeake College on the Eastern Shore, spoke to the students at an intro rally. “You represent almost a half a million individuals,” she said. “Go out there and tell your stories… you can do it better than we can.”
Funding community college is an investment in the future, said Director of Student Engagement at AACC Chris Storck. “The vast majority of community college students are going to stay and work in Maryland.”
Emily Dreszer, a transfer studies and paralegal student at AACC who has interned with a representative and hopes to attend University of Maryland College Park’s government and politics program, then law school, was serving her second year as a student advocate. She spoke to her representative, Delegate Tony McConkey , a Republican from District 4 ,about the urgent need to increase state aid to community colleges. State aid has been reduced seven times over the past 10 years.
“I work two jobs and go to school full time,” Dreszer said, noting it was common for good students to see community college as a stepping stone to more costly higher ed. “AACC has given me the chance to figure out what I want to do while being affordable.”
Between meetings, in hallways, elevators and walking through the white tunnel between the buildings, many students recited facts to each other about bills regarding state aid to community colleges and need-based financial aid for workforce training.
Soon students rattled off numbers like experts, like asking for support for SB 152, which would increase state funding toward education. “It’s disheartening, almost scary,” said Johnathan O’Dea, an AACC cybersecurity major, about the possible lack of funding for state bill 152.
Gloria George of Frederick Community College (FCC) spoke to her experience with college and what FCC was to her. Struggling with the impact of a stroke at age 5, George feared the challenges and costs of college. Even though she had taken three dual-enrollment courses in high school, after a gap year, she was hesitant of taking the step.
“Choosing the right college is a daunting task,” she said. But she feels she made the correct choice—FCC has given her the confidence to excel not only at academics, but also leadership.
Redefined lives was a common theme among many students meeting with legislators. Matthew Vosburg, never wanted to go to college, but felt stuck in the job he took after high school. He decided to go to AACC and hasn’t looked back. “I’m involved with student government and [the] International Student Association. It makes me feel a lot better about myself knowing I’m improving myself,” he said. “It’s not just learning in a classroom, it’s also learning outside the classroom.”
Vosburg plans to attend University of Washington when he graduates in fall 2018.
AACC President Dr. Dawn Lindsay said it’s key for legislators to see the students whose lives they’re impacting with their decisions. “It’s a great opportunity for the students as well,” she said. “They really gain confidence and get to be a part of a legislative process—I’m always so impressed!”