Higher Education, HBCUs and Career Readiness

Maryland has a wealth of public higher education opportunities from the 12 public four year colleges that make up the University of Maryland system, including 4 public HBCUs, to the sixteen community colleges. While Maryland is ranked 12th overall by US News and World report for Higher Education, there is still so much work to be done in Maryland to close the racial gap in higher education attainment, make higher education more affordable, support Maryland’s HBCUs, ensure career readiness and remove barriers for undocumented Marylanders. 

John will lay out a BLUEPRINT for higher education in Maryland that will commit his administration to 70% adult attainment of a high quality degree or credential by 2030. To achieve this goal and make sure Maryland has truly equitable access to higher education success, John’s administration will focus its efforts on closing the current disparities in outcomes by ethnicity and high and lower wealth counties. Maryland’s public universities, community colleges and HBCUs along with its wide array of private non-profit educational institutions and major employers must all play roles in ensuring more Marylanders have the education and skills they need to thrive and to strengthen our State’s economic future.

As Governor John will:

  • Provide for universal free community college or two years at a Maryland HBCU. 

Maryland’s current “college promise” is not a promise since it is deeply underfunded and overly restrictive. John will remove the income restrictions from Maryland’s current program, and fully fund it so that tuition and fees will be covered for all full-time students in Maryland’s community college system, or for the first two years of enrollment at any HBCU in Maryland. John will also make sure we take steps to ensure every eligible student can benefit.  This will improve college-going rates among Maryland’s high school graduates and adult learners while reducing student loan burden, and more fairly support the state’s historically underfunded HBCUs and their students. 


  • Launch a Maryland College Completion Compact to improve rates of degree completion in community colleges and HBCUs.

Free tuition alone does not ensure students will graduate with degrees or credentials of value in the labor market.  John will establish a new fund to encourage community colleges and HBCUs, in partnership with  four-year universities,  to implement some of the following strategies while committing to improve degree completion rates and close gaps among race and income groups over the next five years.  

  1. Ensure full implementation of the Blueprint’s promise to increase availability of free early college enrollment programs, especially for college-ready low-income students and students of color.  Today, just 5.8% of Maryland’s high school seniors are enrolled in any form of “dual enrollment” college-credit earning program in high school, lagging the national average of 10%; only some of these programs are tuition free,  and students eligible for free lunch are seriously underrepresented.  Institutions and school districts should expand access to and eliminate tuition for high school students in dual enrollment programs, as required by the Blueprint, These funds should be used by institutions to develop new tuition-free early college options; high school experiences; and “dual-enrollment programs” and additions to Maryland’s six stand-alone early college high schools.  Any new programs or full schools must be focused on expanding access for low-income students and students of color, and on models that partner with employers in high-growth sectors to provide career development and internship opportunities.  Eliminate dead-end traditional remediation course requirements in all community colleges by offering co-requisite coursework and other strategies that have been shown to improve students’ completion of credit-bearing math and English courses in their first year of college.
  2. Establish comprehensive student support programs in community colleges and HBCUs that combine strong advising and other student social and financial supports to accelerate degree completion.  
  3. Make it easier for students to transfer, by developing collaborations between two-and four-year schools, and reducing the number of excess credits transfer students often end up paying for that aren’t needed for their degree.  
  4. Invest in student cohort-based opportunity programs, in which cohorts of first generation and students of color receive special programming, learn and work together to support each other and are connected with more senior peers as they transition into competitive public four-year schools.
  5. Develop programs to re-engage adults who began college but did not complete, often left with debt and no degree, to complete degrees or obtain high value short term credentials leading to family-sustaining jobs.  
  6. Invest in safety net initiatives to meet students’ basic needs for food, housing, child care and emergency financial assistance. 

  • Build on the landmark HBCU settlement and partner with HBCUs to create and support academic programs that address the most urgent needs facing Maryland.  

As Governor, John would whole-heartedly support the landmark $577 million settlement reached between the state and our four HBCUs in Maryland to provide  them with funds over the next ten years above and beyond what they would otherwise receive, as compensation for a legacy of system disinvestment.  Additionally, John will ensure Maryland’s HBCUs are equipped to meet the needs of the future, with state-of-the-art programs that prepare students for careers in renewable energy, cybersecurity, STEM, education and healthcare. This will require supporting new programs, as well as supporting existing programs that meet unique needs — one reason expanding the Maryland College Promise to HBCUs is so critical. 

  • Expand the Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit and other forms of debt relief to support more Marylanders.

Currently, only graduates with at least $20,000 in debt are eligible for an up to $1,000 tax credit to help them address their student loans. We should expand the pot of money available to $27 million for Maryland residents with student debt in order to quadruple the tax credit to $4,000 for every eligible Maryland resident. Such action would benefit all Marylanders with substantial student debt, but would especially benefit HBCU graduates, who are the most likely to graduate with student debt and to hold significantly more debt.   

John will also simplify the patchwork of loan forgiveness programs to support any Maryland college graduate who agrees to work in Maryland in public or government service for four years.  This approach will allow us to address teacher shortages and the need for more mental health service providers and other healthcare specialists in high needs communities, including rural communities.  And, to encourage Maryland college graduates to remain in Maryland, John will ensure that Maryland’s Smart Buy program is working as hard as possible to enable first-time homebuyers, especially those of color, whose rates of homeownership lag those of white graduates, to pay off student debt while taking on their first mortgages.  

  • Establish a Governor’s Jobs and Innovation challenge with major employers, universities and unions to strengthen and diversify the pipeline of talent for Maryland’s growing industry sectors.

To ensure Maryland students are prepared for and transition into good jobs in growing industries, such as tech and cybersecurity, life sciences, health care and clean energy, and that Maryland provides a more attractive talent pool for employers, John will work with public and private sector employers, universities, the National Institute of Health and other federal agencies, labor, and workforce development organizations on a Governor’s Jobs and Innovation Challenge. This multi-pronged initiative  will work to ensure all of our higher education institutions are working closely with major employers to identify the skills and competencies that will open doors to family-sustaining careers while ensuring the State’s economy can grow and thrive; and then developing pathways for students — with a focus on those who have been historically underrepresented in good jobs — into these roles. Recently Maryland has been eclipsed by Virginia in attracting and keeping employers, particularly in tech-related industries; the relative availability of diverse, skilled talent is one key reason. This challenge will build on promising existing initiatives like UMBC’s Maryland Technical Internship Program that has subsidized internships in over 200 organizations since 2018;  Google’s STEM pathways initiative with Morgan State and other national HBCUs, and UM Ventures that has invested in commercializing technologies related to University research and supporting the resulting start-up ecosystem.  

The Governor’s Challenge will also provide  competitive grants to organizations or collaborations among organizations  that are replicating proven models to attract and prepare low-income students, students of color and female students for careers in high-growth areas including tech and cybersecurity, health care, life sciences, clean energy and business.    These initiatives will involve career exploration, technical and professional skill building, internships or apprenticeships, and support for innovation and entrepreneurship.  

One  particular focus will be to make Maryland’s HBCUs the hub for a thriving, next-generation business and entrepreneurship sector in Maryland. John will create an innovative program, “MD Future Business Leaders,” linking aspiring HBCU students in Maryland with in-state businesses that will mentor, train and employ these students upon graduation, creating the next generation of business leaders in the state. Students from both Maryland and around the country who are accepted to this program will receive scholarships that will help make college more affordable. They will also be connected with a Maryland business for summer or in-semester experiences in their sophomore and junior summers, leading to employment upon graduation. Students must remain employed in the state of Maryland for four years following graduation as a stipulation of the program. Participating businesses will receive a business tax credit, modeled after the Maryland Apprentice Employee tax credit, of $3,000 per eligible employee per year, for up to four years of full-time employment for each participant, in addition to access to a high caliber talent pipeline. 

  • Provide a real economic fair chance to Maryland’s justice-involved incarcerated youth and adults, through expanded education and training.

Maryland leads the nation in incarcerating young Black men. Even as we work to address our unacceptable incarceration rates, we must also provide a fair chance for those who are incarcerated to attain the education and training that will allow them to return to the workforce and successfully transition back to their communities.  Providing access to education while in prison has been shown to reduce recidivism and improve economic prospects for people who are formerly incarcerated and their families.  As Secretary of Education, John initiated a pilot of the now-expanded Second Chance Pell Program to enable people who are incarcerated to use Pell grants for college coursework in prison, announced at Goucher College in Maryland, a national model for creating educational opportunities for students who are incarcerated.  

As Governor, John will make sure that Maryland institutions take full advantage of the Federal Second Chance Pell program, to maximize access to education and training for people who are incarcerated. He will also undertake a review of the quality and availability of all education and workforce development programs available in Maryland’s prisons, jails and youth detention facilities, and how well these programs are supporting people who are currently incarcerated and returning citizens in accessing credentials and jobs. He will work to prioritize expansion of opportunities that are working to enable people who are incarcerated to have better economic prospects upon release — including through training programs that partner with employers, along the lines of the Governor’s Jobs and Innovation Challenge. 

  • Tackle head on the barriers to higher education faced by undocumented Marylanders.

To better ensure undocumented students have access to a higher education and further expand resources to help them pay for college, John’s administration will create a state-funded and administered low-interest student loan program, comparable to the federal student loan programs. 

We must also recognize that the systemic barriers undocumented students traditionally encounter when seeking to access higher education may have perpetuated a myth among both students and educators that the doors to higher education are closed to them. John’s administration will work to  ensure students are aware of the resources and processes in place to get them to and through college by allocating funds and requiring that every Maryland community college and Maryland state university designate an undocumented student liaison.

Finally, current requirements around universal free community college, in-state tuition, and in-state financial aid require students to have resided in the state for at least three years, which can adversely affect newcomer immigrant students who already face additional barriers to higher education. John’s administration will work to lower the length of time required for students to be eligible for these benefits, to support these students and their families.