July 13, 2024
Annapolis, US 74 F

DEADLINE APPROACHING: Has COVID thrown your college plans for a loop? Here are some possible solutions.

As our world seems to be changing daily, so do college plans; but no matter the situation, the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) likely has a program to help you attend or return to college.

“Due to COVID-19, MHEC has delayed the awarding dates on several of our scholarships in an effort to allow more time for students to submit the required documentation, making them eligible for millions of dollars to attend a Maryland college or university,” MHEC Secretary Dr. James D. Fielder said.

One of those scholarships Secretary Fielder is referring to, is the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship which has just undergone  big changes on July 1, 2020. The major changes include removing the service obligation and the age requirement previously attached to the scholarship, allowing more students the opportunity to be eligible for up to $5,000 annually to attend a Maryland community college. (The Promise Scholarship is known as a last dollar award, allowing eligible recipients to receive an award of up to $5,000 per year to cover any remaining tuition and mandatory fee expenses at the community college after all Federal and State financial aid has been applied).

MHEC also extended the deadline for applicants to submit required documentation for the Guaranteed Access Grant Award Program from April 1 to June 1. The Guaranteed Access Grant Award Program, covers 100 percent of the student’s financial need and may receive an award for up to $19,400 in the 2020-2021 academic year.

Interrupted Education

With the COVID-19 pandemic, college plans for many may be up in the air. Students or parents may not be able to afford the cost of returning to their 4-year institution, or even considering starting college.  While students should always work with their institution to see what options are available to them, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Promise Scholarship may be an option.

Maryland residents who have graduated from high school with a 2.3 GPA or higher, or hold a GED and want to attend a Maryland community college, may qualify for up to $5000 per year toward an Associate degree, vocational certificate, credit-bearing certificate, courses that lead to licensure certification, or an apprenticeship.

Students who are considering attending a 2-year institution, but already identified a 4-year institution on their Federal Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) or their Maryland State Financial Aid Application (MSFAA) can  add the community college by the July 31, 2020 deadline.

According to the MHEC website, an applicant may also change their school of choice by going to the student’s Maryland College Aid Processing System (MDCAPS) account and clicking on the “Enrollment” tab.

If you have completed or are recently ready to complete your Associate degree, but are concerned about how you can take that next financial step to attend a 4-year college or university in Maryland; you should know about the 2+2 Transfer Scholarship, which is designed to assist and encourage students from Maryland community colleges to attend a 4-year institution within the State.

Dig around a little and you will see there are numerous need-based, occupational, career, and legislative scholarships available to help students attending 4-year institutions in Maryland.

Delayed Education

So let’s shift this conversation and talk about the student who delayed their college studies due to financial, personal, or for health reasons; and now during the pandemic, realized job security may be tied to that un-earned degree. The delay in completing your education does not have to be permanent. MHEC administers the Near Completer Grant, for individuals who are currently not enrolled at a postsecondary institution, but who now want to re-enroll at an institution to finish their degree. The Near Completer Grant is also a last dollar award. A Near Completer who re-enrolls at a community college will be eligible for up to one-third of the in-county tuition charge, and a Near Completer who re-enrolls in a public 4-year institution will be eligible for up to one-third of the (in state) undergraduate tuition charge.

Don’t let COVID hold you back

While COVID-19 may be responsible for major lifestyle challenges now and in the future, it has also offered numerous opportunities.

So don’t miss your opportunity to complete the FAFSA or MSFAA in order to be eligible for many of MHEC’s scholarships and grants.  The application opens again October 1, 2020 and closes March 1, 2021, so start planning ahead.

“MHEC’s ongoing efforts to offer Maryland students access to college was not curtailed due to the pandemic,” Dr. Fielder added. “Under Governor Hogan’s leadership, we placed a greater emphasis on being flexible, allowing our staff to continue serving our students without pause during these unprecedented times.”

If you are looking for money to attend one of Maryland’s colleges or universities, go to the Maryland Higher Education Commission Scholarship and Grant page, and look for the opportunities that could benefit you now and in the future when the COVID-19 pandemic is in our rear view mirror!

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