Baltimore, MD- The Baltimore City Green Party (BGP) will push a bill for a tuition-free University System of Maryland (USM) and community college (CC) network in the upcoming 2018 Maryland General Assembly (MGA) Session. The bill, the Maryland Higher Education Equity Act (MHEEA), prioritizes access to undergraduate and graduate degrees, which result in higher life-time earning, for groups traditionally marginalized by and in the State, while proposing a tuition-free undergraduate education for all graduates of Maryland high schools.
"This will be an important bill that seeks to achieve educational, racial, gender, immigrant, and environmental justice through a set of deep reforms of the University System of Maryland and the state’s network of community colleges,” said Joshua Harris, who is exploring a run for the MGA’s House of Delegates in the 40th District as a Green. Community-centered public safety, community-based economic development, and equity-based education policies are shaping up to be central to Harris’s emerging constituent-driven platform. "MHEEA is a bill I would sponsor on Day 1," he added.
In addition to a tuition-free USM and CCs, room, board, books, and graduate school tuition would be free for African-American descendants of enslaved, American Indian, and Alaska Native peoples. “I am looking forward to seeing (Black) community leaders and public figures supporting HBCUs in Maryland. The MHEEA bill is not only a chance to do so, but an opportunity to show unwavering support for ALL students enrolled in college across the state,” said Brandon Walker, a Coppin State University Urban Studies student and Ujima People’s Progress Party activist, in a written statement.
The bill outline was written by BGP members, area advocacy experts, and USM students and alumni, who are encountering a high level of support for the bill on and off campuses across the state. “Education is the best equalizer in America and I'm proud to support this bill in its goal of expanding our higher education programs and making a college diploma a tangible goal for all,” said Richard Elliott, co-founder of the group UMBC Progressives and an American Studies and Political Science major at University of Maryland Baltimore County.
MHEEA will attract and retain the brightest minds, providing an huge economic boost to Maryland. “The bill would impact me because it would give me a sense of worth as a citizen and graduate of this city and state, and inspire me to wish to stay and one day raise children here who’d likely enter this same education system,” said Meagan Buster, a BGP Steering Committee Organizer, entrepreneur, and Towson University (Geography ‘12) graduate.
In addition to the central tuition-free provisions, MHEEA would also increase funding for adult continuing education, return Baltimore City Community College to municipal rather than state control, provide a living wage and the right to organize for all university employees, require university presidents to present five and ten year plans for making their campuses environmentally sustainable, put in place new sexual health, sexual violence prevention and survivor care measures that strengthen Title IX, designate all campuses ICE non-compliant, and legislate an end to the duplication of successful programs at HBCUs at nearby HWCUs.
The Maryland Higher Education Equity Act (MHEEA)
Universal higher education for all Marylanders, paid for with a Pollution, Inequality, and War (PIW) tax, so the polluters, the rich, and the war contractors pay their fair share.
1. Provide tuition-free University System of Maryland and community colleges for all Maryland high school graduates. Provide tuition-free graduate school for descendants of enslaved African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives. Subsidize room, board, and books for descendants of enslaved African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives.
2. Increase funding for adult continuing education to make 100% of staff positions full-time.
3. Return Baltimore City Community College to Baltimore City control with dedicated state funds and increase state per-pupil funding at community colleges to 50 cents of every per-pupil allocation at University System of Maryland institutions, indexed for additional funds based on City or county concentrations of poverty.
4. Pay a living wage ($20/hr, pegged to increase with cost of living index) to graduate student employees and university employees, and respect their right to unionize without intimidation.
5. Ensure all campuses are environmentally sustainable, with a) each college president submitting a five year plan in 2019 and a ten year plan in 2020 for revamping the electricity, heating, transportation, waste, and food systems, as well as purchasing office practices. Goals should include a b) 50% per capita reduction in energy demand, c) combustion-free energy systems, a d) 90% reduction in per capita waste generation, e) no campus waste going to incinerators by 2022, f) zero waste programs following the Zero Waste Hierarchy, g) food systems that are plant-based, local, and organic, h) divestment from fossil fuels and prison labor, and i) tree cut-replanted ratio.
6. Mandate a) a 1 credit class for all USM schools on sexual violence and health that addresses structural misogyny for all freshmen with curriculum written by a panel of internal and external experts and monitored by an independent state-level department within MHEC, b) establishment of a sexual health center that is separate from the Title IX office and provides ongoing support and resources by paid student and staff employees, c) training all mandated reporters about trauma literacy and how to support survivors in the process of referring them to the Title IX office, d) requirement to have trained advocates to work with survivors who do choose to pursue cases against perpetrators of violence, and e) dedicated funding for additional, regular public programming organized by students with funding and support from personnel.
7. Designate all USM colleges, universities, and facilities ICE non-compliant sanctuary spaces and mandate non-compliance training for all university police and security personnel.
8. Close duplication of degree programs at HWCUs near similar programs at HBCUs.