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Students Advocate for Community Colleges

students advocate for community colleges

Hundreds of students representing the state’s 16 community colleges gathered in Annapolis on Wednesday for Student Advocacy Day – an annual event that gives students an opportunity to meet with their legislators.

Thirteen students from Howard Community College joined President Kate Hetherington and Vice President of Student Services Cindy Peterka in the state’s capitol to tell stories of how the community college has changed their lives.

Legislators often meet with college leaders, usually on the topic of more funding, Hetherington said.

“(But) you have a special story you’ll be telling about how your life was positively affected by community college,” she told a packed room at the Miller Senate Office Building.

Hetherington asked students to keep something in mind while speaking with their legislators: “Where would you be if there weren’t any community colleges?”

For student Akbar Tolbert, he wouldn’t be attending college if it were not for Howard Community College. He had always looked forward to college, but never thought much about the price tag of a higher education. Then in 2010, his father passed away. Soon after, his mother lost her job. Over time, Tolbert’s college fund was depleted. And while he graduated with college acceptance letters, he couldn’t afford tuition, even with the scholarships. One day, a friend told him about Howard Community College. After seeing how affordable the tuition was, “it just made sense to go there,” Tolbert said.

Keeping tuition costs down was a key topic of discussion between students and their legislators. Several years of state funding cuts to Maryland’s community colleges have driven tuition increases, so students asked legislators to fully support their community colleges this budget season.

Tuition is affordable for nursing student Stephanie Scensny. But her two children will too be college bound, adding to the cost.

Scensny described her experience at HCC as “overwhelming” – in a good way.

“I had no idea what was waiting for me at community college, “ she said. “I have had so many opportunities.”

So much so, that Scensny said Howard Community College will be the only option for her two children.

“They’ll definitely be spending their educational careers at Howard,” she said, with a laugh.

Photos from Student Advocacy Day are available on the HCC Flickr page.

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