May 2016 Viewpoint

Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce endorses proposed Wicomico County Economic  Impact Scholarship Program @ Wor-Wic Community College.

This is a program of free tuition at Wor-Wic for Wicomico County graduating seniors. Like any program of this caliber, there are requirements that must be met in order to qualify for enrollment for entrance and continued attendance once in the program.

Not all graduating seniors believe that college is an option for them, BUT, with this opportunity the graduates can attend college virtually “free” and earn a two-year degree. At least they have a chance to succeed with the ability to pay not standing in their way of attending college.

Similar programs have been in place in Garrett County, Maryland and the State of Delaware SEED Program for 10-years. Allegany County, Maryland has had a program in place for a few years. All are considered successful projects in their communities. They chose to do it for the very same reasons it is being proposed here—as an economic development initiative.

Eligible candidates are recent high school graduates who must apply for all available federal and state aid FIRST, therefore this is referred to as “last-dollar” scholarship funding by the County. The student must enroll full time and complete a minimum of 12 credits per semester with a passing average of a 2.0 GPA.

What are the goals of this program?

  • First, to increase the percent of Wicomico County population with a college degree from its current 35% to the State goal of 55% by 2025.
  • Increase the education level of the community in order to help our current businesses to be more competitive.
  • Increase the education level of the community in order to be more attractive to potential employers who are considering relocating to our region.
  • Reduce the brain-drain in the community. Build our “human talent” level.
  • Increase the local tax base with more working adults in higher-paying positions.
  • Increase education and incomes in order to sustain our local quality of life and economic vitality.
  • Reduce the cost of higher education to our local citizens so that they are not saddled with debt when they complete college, and therefore, unable to buy a car or a home for many years. The average student loan debt for 2015 bachelor’s graduates is $35,000.
  • Reduce the time to graduation for college students by requiring full-time attendance. This leads to a quicker payback on the community investment.

Educated populations are healthier, more stable, more engaged in their communities, unlikely to need welfare or make unemployment claims, and have a lower probability of committing crime, thereby reducing our tax burden for expensive social programs and related costs.

Finally, this program has proven to create improved behavior of high school students which is the number one issue in our schools today. This program has proven in other communities to also reduce absenteeism, create higher grades and standardized test scores.

Yes, there are costs involved, but we can’t afford NOT to do this NOW in our County. This program is not about “us” but about our future growth and prosperity in the County. This is a huge opportunity for our youth and can only payback quality dividends with “human talent” growth for Wicomico County.

The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce commends Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver and Wor-Wic President Dr. Ray Hoy for their vision and desire for a better educated and expanded employable workforce in Wicomico County.

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