Harford Community College student Giavanna Tserkis recently provided emotional testimony in Annapolis in support of College Promise Programs that would allow eligible state residents to attend Maryland community colleges tuition-free.

Gia, who does not qualify for financial aid, described the personal challenge of working three jobs to pay for her college education. She explained that her father has serious medical issues which make him unable to work and that her mother, who is the sole provider for the family, earns a modest salary.

“One of my jobs begins at 7 a.m. before classes. I work another job in the hours after classes end. Thursday through Sunday, I work my third job—an overnight job in a warehouse. I am one of many college students left in the gray area: I am not eligible for financial aid, but I can also not afford college without holding a job. Having my community college tuition paid would relieve the emotional and economic stress of college and allow me to focus on maintaining a 4.0 grade point average. I hope to attend law school after earning my bachelor’s degree in political science, but I know that tuition expenses will only get higher. I want to pursue my goals of making this world a better place, and a College Promise Program would will help me to do that,” Gia said.

The hearings before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on the two College Promise bills (SB 317 and SB 261), which took place on February 7, had many supporters, including community college students, parents, and presidents, and many higher education representatives. The bills propose the means for recent Maryland high school graduates to attend community college tuition-free.

Nine states currently have, or are instituting, tuition-free programs for students.

Earlier in the day, community college students and presidents from several colleges attended Student Advocacy Day 2018, an annual event that provides an opportunity for students to meet their elected representatives and solicit continued support for the community college mission. The event was sponsored by Maryland Association of Community Colleges.