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Higher Education in Maryland

October 2008


For immediate release: October 1, 2008
Media Contact: Christopher Falkenhagen
Communications: (410) 260-4511

Veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq Conflict Scholarship extension; two other MHEC laws go into effect today

ANNAPOLIS, MD (October 1, 2008) – Legislation to extend the Veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts (VAIC) Scholarship which was signed into law earlier this year by Governor O’Malley, becomes effective today.

The bill, which received bi-partisan support during the 2008 Maryland General Assembly Session and was a high priority for the O’Malley-Brown administration, extends the deadline for awarding an initial VAIC Scholarship from June 30, 2012 to June 30, 2016.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission’s Office of Financial Assistance administers the VAIC scholarship.

During the 2006 General Assembly Session, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown (D-Prince George’s), who was then-House Majority Whip, teamed with lead sponsor House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) to shepherd the Veterans Advocacy and Education Act of 2006 through the House, and included the VAIC scholarship. Senate sponsor Rob Garagiola did the same in the Senate. Lieutenant Governor Brown is a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and served 10 months active duty in Iraq. Senator Garagiola is a former member of the U.S. Army Reserves.

Senate Bill 608 (Chapter 604, Acts of 2008) was introduced this year by Senator Garagiola because of the continuation of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Governor O’Malley included $150,000 in his FY 2009 budget to alleviate the waiting list for Afghanistan and Iraq veterans applying for the scholarship.

“The O’Malley-Brown administration has been a tremendous advocate for our veterans during their 20 months in office,” Secretary James E. Lyons, Sr., said. “I was pleased that MHEC joined with the Senate and the House in providing its strong support for this crucial legislation. It is vital that our veterans not only have access to higher education, but also the financial means to pursue their education.”

The VAIC Scholarship provides postsecondary undergraduate education scholarships to veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. Scholarships may be awarded for five years of full-time study or eight years of part time study. In 2008, 126 veterans received scholarships totaling approximately $600,000 through the program.

Two other MHEC bills also go into effect today. Senate Bill 141 (now Chapter 152, Acts of 2008) expands the eligibility for the Graduate and Professional Scholarship program to eligible students attending institutions of higher education in Maryland that offer first professional degrees in pharmacy.

Before this bill became law, only the University of Maryland, Baltimore received funds to provide scholarships to pharmacy students. With the recent addition of a first professional degree in pharmacy at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, and with other schools looking to add similar programs, MHEC’s aim was to expand the Graduate and Professional Scholarship Program to accommodate new post-graduate pharmacy schools.

“I am pleased the General Assembly and Governor O’Malley recognized the importance of strengthening our higher education pharmacy programs and allowing us to provide scholarships to any pharmacy program in the State,” Secretary Lyons said. “Pharmacy is a workforce shortage area in Maryland and this legislation addresses the problem. I know dealing with workforce shortage issues is a large concern for Governor O’Malley and for MHEC.”

Senate Bill 187 (Chapter 157, Acts of 2008) also becomes law today. It authorizes MHEC to charge an application fee to institutions of postsecondary education that are seeking certification to operate in Maryland. Institutions of postsecondary education are not allowed to operate in Maryland without a certificate of approval from MHEC.

“This bill is important because it helps offset costs for evaluation time at no expense to the State,” said Assistant Secretary for Academic Affairs Dr. George Reid.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission is a 12-member coordinating board responsible for establishing statewide policies for Maryland public and independent colleges and universities and private career schools. It serves as an advocate for more than 326,000 college students in Maryland, for the State and its needs, and for business and industry in Maryland.


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