CHESTERTOWN — Maryland Comptroller Peter Francot awarded Washington College with the 2017 Bright Lights Award for Innovation and Entrepreneurship during a presentation Tuesday, in recognition of the college's initiatives to make education more affordable and to lessen student debt.
"Washington College is a gem of an institution," Franchot told those gathered, who ranged from college employees to local officials, in the skybox above the college's Roy Kirby Jr. Field. "The state of Maryland is really lucky that we have you as an asset."
Joe Holt, director of institutional giving for the Office of College Advancement, said the Dam the Debt, Saver's Scholarship, George's Brigade and the Fixed4Four initiatives all are "innovative programs designed to address the twin challenges of access and affordability" for students and families.
The Dam the Debt program is designed to help graduating students by reducing their federally subsidized loan debt, while Saver's Scholarship matches the amount that families contribute from a 529 college savings plan or an educational savings account — up to $2,500 a year — to pay for their student's tuition.
George's Brigade provides full tuition, fees, room and board for high-achieving and first-generation students in need.
These three initiatives were launched by former WC president Shelia Bair.
When started, Fixed4Four is expected to freeze tuition rates for freshmen over the course of their four years at college.
"I'm proud to work in an institution that is tackling these challenges head-on and figuring out strategies for the future," Holt said.
Franchot presented Holt with a Comptroller's Medallion for his more than 25 years of service to Washington College. The medallions are given to those who make a difference in their communities.
Franchot developed the Bright Lights Award, which is given to one winner from each of the state's 24 jurisdictions for business and nonprofit leaders and organizations, to "salute the entrepreneurial spirit of tens of thousands of businesses in Maryland."
"Since its founding, Washington College has offered a rigorous liberal arts education for Marylanders, as well as students from around the globe and nation," Franchot said. "By making college more affordable, Washington College helps students everywhere receive and access a high-quality education and graduate with a better ability to save and contribute to the economy."
He credited all those involved with the initiatives like Bair, for her role in spearheading the college's affordability campaign.
"Our state has a thriving community of entrepreneurs and innovators. ... You've launched three successful initiatives so far," Franchot said. "I couldn't be happier to be here today to present this to Washington College.
Handing the award to President Kurt Landgraf, Franchot said he was delighted the new president — who has been in his role for three months — was "at the helm" of the college. He also gave Landgraf a Comptroller's Medallion and a certificate of recognition for the college.
Landgraf said it was an honor to receive the award and the certificate. He thanked the college's staff, faculty, students and alumni for making Washington College what it is today.
"We think the recent initiatives initiated ... are not only good for our students and parents, but also good for Washington College. We think it's good for the state of Maryland too," Landgraf said. "It's something to think about for our country. ... We are $1.7 trillion in student debt. Something has to be done about that."