SALISBURY – Officials at Wor-Wic Community College are expected to work with county leaders to reevaluate a taxpayer-funded scholarship initiative in light of a new statewide program.
On Tuesday, Bryan Newton, vice president for enrollment management and student services at Wor-Wic Community College, met with the Wicomico County Council in an open work session for an annual review of the Wicomico Economic Impact Scholarship (WEIS) program.
The WEIS program – created in 2016 – is funded by Wicomico County and offers free tuition to eligible high school graduates. The belief is that local students who benefit from the scholarship will complete their degrees, seek work in the community and ultimately grow the county’s tax base.
While Wor-Wic officials argue the program has removed some of the financial barriers to a college education, the success of the program has often been met with some skepticism from members of the county council.
This week, for example, Council President John Cannon noted that four of the 17 students who received county scholarships to Wor-Wic last fall continued to pursue their education full time in the spring semester.
“I’m not sure we are hitting the mark as much as we thought we would,” he said. “Our concerns on the county level is the most efficient use of our funds.”
Cannon said he believed the program was not an effective use of taxpayer dollars.
“It’s not a bad reflection on Wor-Wic,” he said. “But something seems to be amiss.”
Newton assured the council that WEIS funding offered students the opportunity to pursue higher education. He noted, however, that officials with the community college and county council could reconsider the scholarship’s requirements.
Currently, eligible scholarship recipients must be a Wicomico County resident and registered for 12 or more credits in the fall term immediately following graduation. They must also meet GPA and income thresholds.
But Newton noted that many scholarship recipients could not handle a full-time course load. He said 33 of the 62 students who have received WEIS funding since 2016 have graduated, transferred to a four-year college, or have continued their education at Wor-Wic part-time.
“The program requires 12 credits to continue receiving funding,” he said. “We have a number of students that couldn’t handle those 12 credits and continue to work or take care of families. So they have continued with us in a part-time capacity. We still consider that a success.”
Newton said Wor-Wic, upon the recommendation of the council, has agreed to suspend the county’s scholarship program until the Maryland Community College Promise Scholarship – which helps eligible students afford community college – was fully implemented. He noted that both scholarships were similar in terms of eligibility and program requirements.
“Both the Wicomico program and the Promise program are focused on students coming out of high school,” he said. “They are focused on students going full time in credit degree and certificate programs.”
Newton said the county’s scholarship program could be dedicated to other needs that are not being met. He noted, for example, that the funds could benefit part-time and older students, or those completing noncredit programs.
“We are asking for the council’s patience as Dr. [Ray] Hoy and myself put pen to paper and try to come up with what the future of the program would look like and come back to you for further conversation at a later date,” he said.