SOMD – The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) has joined five other Maryland community colleges to form the Maryland Education Alliance (MEA) to further boost students’ opportunities to earn associate degrees or certificates across the state.

The MEA is an innovative collaboration that creates a clear, seamless pathway for students to move from one community college to another and decreases the need to run highly specialized, costly and sometimes low-enrolled programs at several locations. The alliance also creates opportunities for community colleges to share resources and expertise, meet community needs and generate cost savings that can be passed on to students.

Joining CSM in the alliance are Anne Arundel Community College, Cecil College, Chesapeake College, Harford Community College and Prince George’s Community College (PGCC). These six community colleges serve nine counties in eastern, southern and central Maryland.

Through the MEA agreement, students complete their initial coursework at their home institution, such as general education, before transferring to the receiving community college for the specialized discipline coursework. For healthcare programs, the home college would help develop agreements for students to complete their clinical requirements at a local healthcare facility.

For instance, CSM currently offers PGCC students the opportunity to transfer to CSM’s Medical Laboratory Technology (MLT) program and pay CSM’s in-county tuition rate. The agreement builds on a 15-year model that has allowed CSM students to articulate to PGCC for Radiography and Respiratory Therapy classes and more recently, the PGCC Nuclear Medicine Technology program.  The new statewide collaboration would expand on these types of agreements between the six participating community colleges in order to share resources and collaborate to increase enrollment in low-enrolled specialty, such as electrical or aerospace engineering.

The added benefit is students can take advantage of articulation agreements with four-year institutions, such as the one Cecil College and Anne Arundel Community College have with Frostburg State University related to mechanical engineering and electrical engineering, respectively.

“These agreements serve students, and the colleges and universities involved, by providing access to top-notch programs without increasing costs for either the students or the partnering colleges and universities,” said CSM’s Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Rodney Redmond. “We have built a partnership that keeps our students at the center of our work. I am elated that CSM is part of this type of innovative program offering, and look forward expanding these offerings to other colleges and university partners.”

The six community colleges hammered out the details throughout 2020 despite the pandemic – and expanded the alliance to include other disciplines, such as healthcare and business, so far.

The participating community colleges will serve as the governing body to meet annually to discuss issues, maintain smooth transitions and open communication. As the MEA expands academic program opportunities, other Maryland community colleges can join to benefit their students as individual institutions can choose which programs to offer.

With the creation of an umbrella agreement, providing the collaboration parameters, each academic program shared under the MEA will be considered a specific articulation agreement between the institutions. These new collaborations will have a signed addendum by participating institutions, creating flexibility related to each program’s curriculum requirements.

The innovation and resource-sharing of this “students first” alliance create the synergy, access, and pathways to rapidly expand Maryland and regional residents’ opportunities to further their education and careers for a better tomorrow.