Mikulski Tours Local College, Talks about Making College More Affordable for Families
April 05, 2004

Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) visited Wor-Wic Community College in Salisbury, Maryland today as part of her statewide tour of higher education institutions in the state. Senator Mikulski met with Wor-Wic President Dr. Ray Hoy and members of the college staff to talk about issues the College is facing, including enough classroom space and faculty to accommodate the students. Senator Mikulski also took a tour of the college, visiting a classroom where nursing students are trained.

"Maryland's community colleges are one of America's great social inventions," said Senator Mikulski. "They are part of the American dream for first-time students and mid-career students. But right now, they are stretched thin. More students are turning to community colleges when tuition at four-year schools is too high, or for retraining when their jobs disappear. I want to work to make sure that community colleges remain accessible and affordable for everyone."

Making College More Affordable

Last month, Senator Mikulski succeeded in getting legislation through the Senate to make college tuition more affordable for families. Senator Mikulski's amendment, which passed the Senate as part of the Fiscal Year 2005 Budget, provides a $4,000 tax credit for tuition for each of the four years of college. It is also refundable, so that families that don't owe taxes at the end of the year can still get the full credit. The tax credit helps everyone from the first-time student attending a four-year college to a mid-career student attending a community college.

"College is part of the American dream. It shouldn't be part of a financial nightmare for families." said Senator Mikulski. "College tuition is on the rise. Our students are graduating with so much debt, it's like their first mortgage. Families are looking for help. Unfortunately, the President's budget didn't offer much hope. That's why I offered an amendment that would give every family sending a child to college a $4,000 tuition tax credit. I'm so proud my colleagues joined me in helping to make sure every student has access to a college education."

Training Students in Latest Technology

Senator Mikulski joined forces with Maryland Community Colleges in a statewide effort to improve Information Technology (IT) education and training at all 16 colleges. Senator Mikulski secured almost $1 million in federal funding this year (Fiscal Year 2004 Omnibus Appropriations bill) for the Maryland Association of Community Colleges Technology Enhancement Consortium (MACC-TEC) to train students in the latest in technology, particularly nurses and other healthcare professionals in demand in Maryland and across the country.

The federal funding will help the 16 Maryland Community Colleges build on the accomplishments of the IT Initiative begun in 2000 by enabling them to offer more classes, purchase new hi-tech equipment, recruit staff and provide ongoing teacher training, and attract more students to the tech field. This year's funding will be targeted to programs that train nurses and other healthcare workers in the latest technology, an important component of healthcare jobs.

"Community colleges are leaders in Information Technology education in Maryland, preparing a world-class workforce," said Senator Mikulski. "They are training our next generation of nurses and other healthcare professionals in the latest tools and technology. Over half of Maryland's new nurses graduated from one of Maryland's Community Colleges. I'm proud to be a part of this important effort."

Senator Mikulski, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has secured a total of $3.2 million over three years to fund the Maryland Community Colleges Information Technology Initiative, including $994,100 this year. More specifically, the money will be used to:

1. Expand existing programs to offer more classes, develop new programs, and increase advising and guidance for students by providing better equipped computer labs, better trained faculty, broader selection of courses, and more options and opportunities for students

2. Aid existing programs to adjust to changes in technology by purchasing new equipment, recruiting staff and increasing salaries, continue professional development, and target classes to specific job skills

3. Market IT education, training, and careers to attract more students to the field

4. Coordinate information with other state initiatives in the IT field

Community colleges are the largest public source of IT training in Maryland. More than 15,000 students are enrolled in IT programs for credit courses, and 65,000 are enrolled in non-credit courses. Fifty-five percent of new graduate nurses in Maryland were prepared at community colleges.

Attracting Students to Nursing Profession

About 2,000 nurses are needed to fill these positions in Maryland hospitals. Nationwide, an estimated 2.8 million registered nurses will be needed by the year 2020 but only about 2 million are expected to be available. In February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that registered nursing will be the profession with the largest job growth from 2002 - 2012.

Senator Mikulski works each year to help ease the nursing shortage in Maryland and across the country. Senator Mikulski sponsored the Nurse Reinvestment Act, which passed Congress in 2002. The legislation offers financial assistance for men and women to cover the costs of nursing education and training. Each year, Senator Mikulski spearheads an effort to fund these and other nursing education programs. Over the last two years, Senator Mikulski has secured about $50 million in funding for nursing recruitment and retention programs.

The Nurse Reinvestment Act helps students afford college in several ways. For example, nurses who agree to teach at schools of nursing can get their education loans canceled. Last fall, nursing schools turned away over 11,000 qualified applicants because they did not have enough faculty.

"America is facing a nursing shortage," said Senator Mikulski. "There are more than 125,000 nurse vacancies in hospitals nationwide. In Maryland, nearly 13 percent of hospital nursing jobs are vacant. The nursing shortage is only getting worse. Two years ago, Congress made nursing recruitment and retention a priority in our federal law book by joining me in passing the Nurse Reinvestment Act. We must continue to make nursing a priority in the federal checkbook."

SENATOR MIKULSKI. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) kicked off her statewide higher education tour on Monday, April 5, at Wor-Wic Community College in Salisbury, Md. Senator Mikulski met with employees of the college. During her visit, the Senator attended a nursing skills laboratory and talked with Wor-Wic nursing students. Pictured, clockwise from left, are Senator Mikulski, Laura Link of Salisbury, Dixie J. Sollazzo, instructor of nursing, David Bunting of Delmar, Md., Jennifer Walkup and Julia E. Washburn of Salisbury, Joy Martin of Hurlock, Sarah Kee of Berlin and Melissa Gaard of Princess Anne.