Kaplan students' state aid at risk

March 24, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- The president of Kaplan College's Hagerstown campus asked state lawmakers Tuesday to continue to allow students there to receive state grant money.

Under current rules, Kaplan College students will no longer be eligible for state grant money after July, when the college merges with Kaplan University -- a for-profit university based out of the state.

President W. Christopher Motz said that will unfairly penalize students at the Hagerstown campus, which enrolls 800 students -- about half of which are Maryland residents. About 250 of those students are Washington County residents.

There are currently 122 Kaplan College students in Hagerstown receiving state grants.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and Washington County's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly cross-filed bills that would create an exception for Kaplan College. The bills were heard by committees Tuesday in both houses. No action was taken.


Kaplan College, formerly Hagerstown Business College, was founded in Hagerstown in 1938, and became nationally accredited in 1972. In March 2007, when the Maryland Higher Education Commission allowed Kaplan College to offer bachelor's degrees, the MHEC also urged Kaplan College to obtain regional accreditation.

Motz said the decision was made that Kaplan College would merge with Kaplan University -- reducing the timeline to achieve regional accreditation from five years to one. The "prestigious" accreditation adds value to student degrees and makes it easier to transfer credits to other colleges, Motz said.

However, Kaplan officials were never told that merging with Kaplan University, which was approved as an out-of-state degree-granting institution in 2008, would mean Kaplan students would not be eligible for state grants.

The MHEC has said it will allow the 122 Kaplan College students currently receiving state grants to continue to receive those funds. However, Motz said that would only help 22 students keep state aid. The others are expected to graduate or would no longer be eligible because they move from full-time to part-time student status.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, said delegates had "deep concern" for the students at Kaplan College but very little support for the bill. He said he doubted the bill would pass through committee and said the MHEC pledged to try to help Kaplan students in some way without legislation.

The MHEC testified Tuesday against the bills, saying the legislation would redefine an "in-state institution" to allow students at an out-of-state institution to qualify for state-supported scholarships, grants or loans.

Some Senate committee members also said they were concerned that allowing the exception for Kaplan College would allow students at online universities, like the University of Phoenix or Strayer, to apply for state grants.

However, Motz and Munson said they intended only to apply the bill to Kaplan College and would accept any amendments to narrow its scope.

Munson questioned MHEC representatives during Tuesday's hearing, saying they never responded to requests to help amend the bill and work together to preserve student aid for Kaplan students.

"And frankly, I can't understand your lack of interest in the students that you wouldn't even come up with some amendments," Munson told MHEC representatives.

The Herald-Mail Articles