The Sad Competition: Survivors Of Officers Killed Or Injured On Duty Vie For Limited State Dollars

In the following Letter to The Dagger, Lynne Parry tells a compelling story about her life as a police survivor and her frustrating personal experience with the Edward T. Conroy Memorial Scholarship program, which was designed to assist the families of fallen heroes with the cost of college in Maryland. When Lynne’s sons were put on the Scholarship’s waiting list for lack of state funding, she reached out to elected officials for help.

Lynne’s letter tells of the vastly different responses she received from Governors Martin O’Malley and Bob Ehrlich and from several local legislators. Lynne also raises questions about state budget priorities as she continues to advocate on behalf of her own children and those of other survivors.

Dear Dagger,

I want to make you familiar with a situation that many may find disconcerting, at the very least enlightening. My late husband, Detective Sergeant Mark F. Parry was employed by Baltimore County Police Department. Mark had volunteered to work the third shift as acting Lieutenant during Christmas week and was hit by a drunk driver on December 27, 2001. Mark underwent several emergent life saving procedures yet was unable to pull through. 25 days later Mark died on January 21, 2002 as a result of the motor vehicle accident injuries. Deaths such as this are labeled Line of Duty or LOD. Mark left behind me, his wife of over 17 years and three children ages 10, 12 and 14 at the time, (also a sister, a brother and many more extended family and dear friends). As anyone can imagine a sudden loss like this was traumatizing while also being a very public one. We received so many gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness that it was overwhelming. This tragic event has altered all of our lives in ways never imagined.

It is no secret that when there is a LOD anywhere in this country that the respective State and the PSOB (Public Safety Officers Benefit) each award money to the surviving spouse and children. How that amount is determined I have no idea, it varies yearly and from State to State. I have not spent any of that money as knowing there are no guarantees with pensions, healthbenefits, etc I want to be prepared. Something else my kids and I both heard, as well as family and friends who surrounded us in our grief was that Maryland takes care of their LOD deaths. We heard this many times that when it came time for higher education/college that as long as they attended a State School in Maryland, things would be covered. Mark himself had been told this many times over during his annual in-service with the department. I suspect most police officers in Maryland are under this impression. Shortly before my older son started his senior year of high school I called the MHEC (Maryland Higher Education Commission) for clarification and I was told then that the Edward T. Conroy Memorial scholarship rarely is able to meet all the funding requests, it is for tuition and fees only, and that there was no guarantee for my three children. My older son and I looked into other options and still did the Conroy paperwork, submitted it in May of 2005 and waited. My son was to start school in the fall of 2005 at Frostburg State. In the meantime I shared this comment to some of my FOP(Fraternal Order of Police) contacts, initially they did not believe me.

The State FOP agreed to look into this, as they believed it was a guaranteed survivor benefit, and eventually Governor Ehrlich was notified. I communicated with Ken Zeigler, an aide to the Governor’s office, who assured me that they would get to the bottom of this and he apologized for the fact that I was dealing with this uncertainty. He also stated that Chip DiPaula (2005 Maryland’s new Chief of Staff) was getting involved and that my oldest would eventually receive the award for tuition and fees. Ken called me with the official award acceptance news early August 2005-I remember clearly because my youngest and I were at COPS (Concerns of Police Survivors-a national organization)-Kids camp in Wisconsin. He explained that Governor Ehrlich and his administration were embarrassed that this had happened and they hoped this would never happen again. My oldest has continued to receive the award while attending Frostburg State University. His tuition and fees have been paid for by the State of MD via the Conroy scholarship, and has already been renewed for his last/4th year. We are responsible for room, board, books other expenses etc. Being a police survivor gives us automatic membership of both National COPS and Maryland’s chapter. MD COPS offers a scholarship that he was also fortunate to receive.

My middle child, another son, has just graduated from high school and will be starting at University of Maryland at College Park this fall. We are all excited for him, he and his dad were “Terp” fans and I believe this is one reason why he wanted to go there so badly-to help keep his memories of his dad alive. Once again we applied for the Edward T. Conroy Memorial Scholarship (listed on the National COPS web site as a benefit for Maryland Survivors). The new application for the 2008-09 school year was made available shortly after May 1st and was due July 15th to the MHEC. My son’s application was mailed certified May 23rd. Imagine our surprise and disappointment last Monday (7.28.08), when we found out he was denied the award due to insufficient funding. My son is on a waiting list, but once again withuncertainty. After our experience three years ago I assumed the MHEC had a better way of tracking potential applicants. (Note this scholarship is also open to survivors of military death, disability, POW/MIA of Vietnam War, and 911 survivors—all very worthwhile candidates!). I in no way mean to imply that my children are any more deserving than any other eligible applicants. I don’t believe anyone who meets the criteria should ever be on a waiting list. My younger son was of course very upset and I assured him that he would still go to UMCP-that I had money saved. His comment was “thank goodness you knew better and what if we had needed that money to live?”

My first reaction was to call my Delegate, Pat McDonough –he immediately called someone he knows in the Education Dept, and has since emailed me the same answer…the funds are gone. I also emailed the Governor, Senator Harris, all three of my delegates and my congressman. I have also heard back from Senator Harris’ office. Senator Kathy Klausmier, from District 8 in Baltimore County, is also aware and looking into the situation. They are supportive of our efforts and have also encouraged my son to apply for the senatorial and/or Delegate scholarships. We live in District 7 and know there are many deserving candidates here, so I felt it more appropriate initially to apply only for the Conroy scholarship, as my children are the best fit for this. The FOP Lobbyist, Frank Boston, is also aware and the President of the State FOP. I did receive a response forwarded from Delegate Aumann (District 42) via the MHEC office that there are currently 114 recipients and they have expended their funds, and this is why my son is on the waiting list. I can’t help but wonder how many others are on the waiting list??

I have been happy that two of our children have chosen to stay in Maryland, support Maryland’s economy, and attend State Schools, but yet there is still inadequate funding for this scholarship. I wish I knew what transpired when Governor Ehrlich was in office. His administration apparently believed the Conroy should live up to its expectations. Isn’t Maryland now the richest State in the U.S.? I understand that the current economy has made everyone’s budgets a challenge and respect that evidently the State of Maryland is no different. But then it does make me wonder why for the last 3-4 legislative sessions have I heard of Bills presented to give Illegal Immigrants in state tuition?? That does not sound fiscally responsible. I communicate with survivors from other States and am familiar with what happens elsewhere. Often times if the survivors opt to attend a State School the tuition and fees are simply waived, it is not contingent on funding or the number of applicants. (Check out State benefits on www.nationalcops.org). I am disappointed I haven’t heard from either Governor O’Malley or his reps; not even an email from his office to explain the situation. He came to Mark’s viewing; I guess that should be enough.

If Mark was still alive he may very well be working Part-time (as many police officers do) at a college like Towson or Ville Julie, which in turn compensates this line of work with free or reduced tuition at their respective schools. I have always thought this was the rationale for the Conroy award- to acknowledge the commitment and sacrifices of the officer and in turn the STATE recognizes this to the surviving family. Quite honestly it is not only about the money it is the principle of the matter. I have told many of my family and neighbors who were there for us when Mark died. Many of them heard what we were told and they are aghast when I tell them about this now, as this only diminishes what Mark and so many other police officers/rescue workers have died for, and for the ones who put their life on the line everyday do. “ It is just wrong” is what my neighbor said. Our children have to miss their dad being there on special days, run of the mill days, sporting events, giving hugs and encouragement, enforcing rules and discipline, and recently now another high school graduation. We have all learned to plug on because that is what you do, and I have told our kids to never, never use what happened to their dad as an excuse for not making the most of themselves. As adults we know life is not fair and we all need to make the best of what we are dealt, unfortunately my kids have learned this early. I am proud to see them doing as well as they do and I know Mark would be proud of them too.

Lynne Parry

The Edward T. Conroy Memorial Scholarship was established by state legislation in 1990 to help offset the cost of college for survivors of public safety officers and others killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Eligible applicants include the children and surviving spouses of law enforcement officers, firefighters, ambulance and rescue workers and in certain circumstances, applicants may also be disabled public safety employees or veterans. The Scholarship is administered by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) and awards can cover up to the full cost of tuition and mandatory fees at a Maryland institution. It all depends on the funding provided each year by the governor and approved by state lawmakers.

When funds run short, a sad competition ensues among equally qualified survivors as MHEC has little choice but to award scholarships according to who was first to send in their paperwork. Students who apply well ahead of the application deadline can still lose out depending on their place in the queue. Those who do receive awards often get a rationed share of the budgeted funds, which this year totaled $570,474. The need for a first-come, first-served rule may be fair in other circumstances, but is this really the best we can do for a group of kids whose parents were protecting the public and were suddenly, violently wrenched away?

Surely our elected officials can anticipate the number of applicants each year and provide enough funding so no one gets a small fraction of what they need or worse, goes away empty handed. Somewhere there are records of the families of all public safety officers who lost their lives in the line of duty. MHEC estimates the number of applicants based on past experience and organizations such as Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) have offered data on some eligible groups to state officials in the past. But COPS estimates that awards in recent years have ranged from 65% to 91% of the total cost of tuition and fees. Are the Governor and state legislators short-changing these families for lack of information, or are they just short-changing them?

Whatever the reason, funding has not kept pace with demand. Just 60 scholarships were awarded the year Mark Parry died. According to MHEC, that number grew to 121 last year, in part because of greater outreach to qualified applicants. But lawmakers also expanded eligibility without adding funding and overall costs have risen. Tuition may have been flat at Maryland public institutions, but fees have gone up. And since awards are renewable for 5 years and priority is given to students already in the program, those costs need to be factored in.

This year, 114 scholarships were awarded before the money ran out. That’s why Lynne Parry and other single parents (eligibility ends when spouses re-marry) have children on the waiting list. Lynne’s son is just one of 40, according to MHEC. They’re all there case someone who did get an award attends a school outside Maryland and has to give back the scholarship, which MHEC will then redistribute to whoever’s next in line.

For some who play this waiting game, their shot at higher education hangs in the balance. Sure, they can scramble at the last minute to chase down other sources of money, but if this is the way our elected officials keep faith with the children and spouses of our public safety officers, it’s a disgrace.

The absolute dollars in question is small for this program; $227,040 would give this years’ average award of $5,676 to all the kids on the waiting list now. In a $31 billion state budget, we ought to find the money.

These are the families who sent one of their own to rescue, protect and defend you and me. We can never, never repay their sacrifice. But we can ease one burden. The University System of Maryland waives tuition for the children of their employees, why can’t something similar be done for the children of our fallen heroes? We should urge Governor O’Malley and our state legislators to make this right.

When we needed them, these families gave us everything. When they need us, how can we tell them to take and number and get in line?

Private donations can be also be made to the Edward T. Conroy Scholarship Fund. The Annotated Code of Maryland allows for private citizens to make donations to the Edward T. Conroy Memorial Scholarship Fund. To donate to the Fund, please write a detailed letter indicating your wish to donate to the Edward T. Conroy Memorial Scholarship Fund and send the letter along with your check, made payable to the Maryland Higher Education Commission. You can address it to Mr. Edward Ommert, Director of Administrative Services, at the address listed below:

Maryland Higher Education Commission
Office of Student Financial Assistance
839 Bestgate Road, Suite 400
Annapolis, MD 21401

Comments

  1. Another survivor says

    Lynne,

    I remember the difficulty you had with this situation with your first son. What a wonderfully written letter. You know we all apppreciate being updated with what is happening all over. I’ve been nervous about Kelsey and her tuition that Michigan reports they will pay. There is paperwork to fill out and I believe they ask about current finances. I’m assured that everything will be o.k. but I can’t help my anxiety. I am going to speak with someone today about it. Thanks for getting the info. out there!

    Denise

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  2. Lynne says

    Thanks to all of you who are taking time to read this. I also ask you take a moment to say thank you to Lt. Michael Howe, a longtime Baltimore County Police Officer. Lt Howe spent Sunday morning at the home of man under suicide watch. Unfortunately Lt Howe suffered a fatal stroke on Monday after dealing with this stressful incident. Please take a few minutes today to hug your loved ones and say a prayer for Lt Howe, his family and all our public safety officers. God Bless each and every one!!

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  3. Sandy says

    WOW…what an eye-opener. I, like MANY others apparently, was under the misconception that this was a guaranteed survivor benefit. makes you wonder doesn’t it. Good thing she had a contingency plan, huh?

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  4. Conrad Gilbert says

    This is a story that should be showing up in the dailey papers in the Baltimore area. I’m sure the Baltimore Enquirer would like to perhaps say their piece on this subject

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  5. says

    This type of “support” (that really isn’t there) not only happens in Maryland but all across the nation. America’s law enforcement surviving families often have to battle to get the benefits that they are entitled to receive after the line-of-duty death of their officers.

    Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line each and every day and they truly believe their families will be cared for should they be called upon to make the supreme sacrifice. Concerns of Police Survivors has been educating law enforcement officers that they need to be aware of their benefits. Unfortunately, it is survivors like Lynne Parry who take on the “benefits battles” for all survivors. You would think, however, that none of these survivors should have to take on these battles.

    Suzie Sawyer
    Executive Director
    Concerns of Police Survivors, Inc.
    Camdenton, MO

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  6. Lawrence R. - Larry - Sibley says

    The F.O.P. has heard this story way too many times. This is really nothing new and as a friend, Suzie Sawyer, has already noted, this is common throughout the nation. Unfortunately, still nothing meaningful has been done to correct the probelm at any level, especially in the Maryland Legislature.

    These dedicated officers give their lives for their fellow man, and once the politically-correct handshaking and expressions of condolence are made at the viewing and funeral by the politicians, the ultimate sacriface paid and the survivors are soon forgotten.

    Promises made are often promises never kept, and obvoiusly just as equally underfunded as Lynne’s letter addresses.

    Lawrence R. – Larry – SIbley
    Office Manager
    Baltimore County Lodge No. 4,
    Fraternal Order of Police, Inc.
    Carney, MD

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  7. Gary McLhinney says

    This seems to be something that we can fix with new legislation. I consider myself very well informed on pension and survivor issues but this issue is a new one.

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  8. Kelly says

    This is an absolute travesty and should be a priority with the legislature and the Governors Office. They can find the money to fund CASA of Maryland without a problem but can’t find the funding for the Survivors tuition benefit???

    No child of a fallen officer in this state should be put on a waiting list. NEVER!!!

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  9. Sue Nickerson says

    The Maryland Chapter of Concerns fo Police Survivors stands behind Lynne in her well written letter that addresses the available funds from the Conroy Scholarship Program. It is our belief that none of our families should ever have to be turned away from receiving a full scholarship to Maryland Post Secondary Educational Systems. Surley the Colleges and this State could lead the Nation by example and welcome all Children of Fallen Officers, Killed in the Line of Duty while protecting the citizens of Maryland. The cost would be minimal compared to the power of return from each of the children as they become productive, educated adults. We urge all readers to join us in following this through to make it a reality for our families.
    Thank You Lynn and please remember Maryland Chapter of C.O.P.S. is always here for you and your children.
    Sue Nickerson
    President
    Maryland Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors
    P.O. Box 125
    Worton, Md. 21678

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  10. Kelly says

    When Trooper Ted Wolf was assassinated in 1990, Father Joseph Selinger, the President of Loyola College promised a full, complete and funded scholarship to the children of Ted Wolf. It would be interesting to learn if this ever came to fruition. This is what should be made available to all of those who lost a parent in the line of duty. No questions asked.

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  11. says

    It is a shame that Lynne even has to to through this. Hopefully, by the time her daughter graduates next year it won’t be this hard. Mark would be so disappointed that this is even happening to them. If I know one thing, Lynne and her kids have grown with this experience and will go through there lives trying to make things better for others.

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  12. Carol Eisman says

    As a friend of Lynne and her extended family, I can attest to the time and effort Lynne has spent attempting to right this appalling lack of follow-through regarding promises made. This situation represents a betrayal of all of our fallen heroes. I applaud Lynne for her willingness to share her story in the hope that it will lead to more responible behavior on the part of our elected officials.

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  13. Maria says

    As the sister of Det. Sgt. Mark Parry, I have had a first hand look at what my sister in law, nephews and niece have had to endure. Things that any child should never have to go through. They, as well as our whole family, have suffered horribly because someone thought it was ok to come to my country illegally, to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking, someone who thought it was ok to drive on a suspended and revoked license, who was arrested seven times before for DUI and DWI. Our family lives with this every day, knowing our government has done nothing to protect its citizens from these kind of people, now we have to suffer more because the state over extended itself! Several politicians visited Mark and our family at Shock Trauma, these same people came to the funeral home and the funeral service, promising Lynne that they appreciated what Mark did for his state, that his children would be taken care of…was it just bold faced lies or a bid for re election? I think it is time that the State of Maryland educate itself on Survivor benefits and fix this problem. NOT just for the Parry children but also for the 39 others on the waiting list and the more that will be coming along behind us.

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  14. Ginni Wolf says

    My children were offered full scholarships to Loyola College after Ted was murdered. My oldest son went for one year, and later transferred to Towson. My other two never went, my youngest is getting ready to go into nursing, and the best program is at Maryland.

    It was indeed generous of Fr. Sellinger to make such an offer, probably because I had graduated from Loyola some years prior and because Ted had been a part-time student there. But this was not an offer to ALL surviving families, and to limit yourself to only one school is not always in your best interest educationally.

    That is why it is so important that Conroy be there for all survivors for all state schools, as they advertise. Everyone is under the impression that Conroy pays for survivor education 100%, because it has always said that on the website.

    When I went back to school and my son went to Towson, the amount of money that we received each semester depended on how much was in the pot and how many survivors applied – it was then divided equally. I don’t think we ever got more than $700 or $800 a semester, which helped but hardly paid for tuition and fees. Most people did not believe me when I told them that. But this waiting list idea really does take the cake!!!

    Thanks, Lynne, for taking this on for everyone.

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  15. Butch Jansen says

    It is a shame that survivors need to beg for the benefits they are entitled to. I find it incredulous that she has to vy for limited amount of funds with 114 other eligible beneficiaries yet our fine “sanctuary state” of Maryland saw fit to offer college funding to the children of “illegal aliens” who violate the very same laws the Brother Mark Parry and I fight to enforce and defend, day in and day out. Its not only downright laughable but in fact outright criminal for our elected politicians to even so much as consider such legislation when the children of our own lawful resident “Fallen Heroes” are entitled to it but the state doesn’t properly fund it! What the hell is wrong with our elected officials? What are they thinking? My fellow citizens of Maryland, wake up and contact all your elected politicians and demand that they protect and defend “Your/Our” interests and not that of persons whom break our laws and come into our state and country illegally and then have the moxy or expectation that they are entitled to anything! Even worse, that some of our politicians propose legislation that caters to the interests of illegal aliens in our state!

    No family member of a fallen hero should ever be subjected to such cruel treatment to be told you are entitled to this benefit and then when they go to take advantage of said entitlement, its not there! What a slap in the face to the memory of that hero…………Every elected politician should be ashamed to allow this to happen. Yet they will always make sure that they ALWAYS take care of their benefits and perks before the sessions end. They forget that we put them in office to represent US not THEIR own agendas.

    This hits home as my sister-in-law is Judy Rumpf, widow of fallen hero Jim Rumpf whom was killed in the line of duty while serving with Baltimore PD back in 1978. It was Judy with the help of Helen Bentley and several other prominent politicians that created the Fallen Heroes Day in Maryland.

    As a 27 year veteran, I hope and pray that no other families need to experience futher distraught over the loss of a loved one. This treatment only rubs salt on their wounds…

    Cpl. O. W. Jansen III

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  16. Lynne says

    Cpl Jansen,

    Thank you for your kind words and your passionate plea for support. My sympathies to you and your sister in law’s family. I can not imagine the challenges she went through, knowing the survivor support in the 70′s was not near to what it is now. Just from brief conversations I have had with Angie Holcomb (widow of Officer Jimmy Holcomb EOW: 4.16.76), I know there were many challenges.

    I want readers to know that several of Harford County’s State Legislative representives have stepped up to attempt to rectify this unfortunate situation. I want to acknowledge Delegate Susan McComas, Delegate JB Jennings and Senator Harris for their interest in this issue and their desire to correct it now and with future legislation.

    Just today I received 3 emails from other widows in Md..they too had no idea that this was how the survivor educational benefits worked. They expressed to me that they assumed this support would be there when their kids needed it, and did not realize it was contingent on funding AND the # of applicants.

    My hope is with the above mentioned delegation team we can change the legislation so that survivors attending ANY State School in MD, have their tuition and fees waived..as employees’ families who work for these same schools do.

    So we will keep up the effort but I agree that everyone who is concerned about this situation please take the time and email your State Representatives and the Governor.

    Thank you!

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  17. Tna Kolb says

    Lynne,
    I haven’t seen you in awhile but this was a very informative article. Bill’s Lieutenant sent me this link and it was very eye opening. I was told the same thing from the federal government in regards to Jesse. That they would cover $$ for his education. Should I be concerned for him?
    Tina Kolb
    (DFC William Beebe, Jr.)

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  18. Lynne says

    Tina,

    Hope you are well, I think of you often. IF you were planning on using the Maryland funds for college…then yes you need to be concerned. I would urge you to contact Governor O’Malley. You can email him from a link in this article.

    This is broken and needs to be fixed, one way or another. IF Jesse chooses an out of state college, YES there is some federal money available, but they are insistent on you exhausting any of your local state’s monies first. But my understanding is they do have funds available. ( kind of sad that the State of MD can’t take care of their own….)You have a few years for Jesse, but don’t wait too long to look into this. National Cops is a huge help..they too have some small scholarships IF your repective state does not offer anything.

    Good luck and hope Bill’s family is well also.

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  19. SUSAN says

    My husbands accident happened in 1982. As a result was in a coma for 15 years. He passed in 1997. Last month was the first I even heard of this benefit. A retired police officer that was in the same department as my husband is checking on this for me. As I read on the site it is the departments responsibility to apply for the benefit at the time of death. Is this true?

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  20. Cindy says

    Susan, you or your graduating senior must apply for the Conroy Scholarship. Here’s a link to the eligibility requirements (below). The 2009-10 application will be posted on the same site sometime in April.

    The deadline for applications is July 15th, but this is not a guaranteed benefit and scholarships are awarded on a first come, first served basis, so you might want to get your application in ASAP after the application comes on line.

    http://www.mhec.state.md.us/financialaid/ProgramDescriptions/prog_conroy.asp

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  21. Lynne says

    Susan, to help clarify the situation. First your husband’s death must be determined line of duty (on a local level, State and Federal level). And in that regard the respective Dept does fill out the paperwork.

    On that note, it does sound like your husband’s death is LOD. If this is the case your children and you most definitely will qualify for the Conroy. But as Cindy alluded to there is not a lot of money, and there are some quirks to it. Given the current Conroy inadequacies there is proposed legislation in Annapolis this year-2009, (HB710 and SB802) to modify the Conroy so that it is a tuition/fee waiver at a MD 2 or 4 year school, for eligible applicants. (The eligibility is the same as per the current Conroy specs).
    If interested in learning more about this bill:

    http://mlis.state.md.us/2009rs/billfile/HB0710.htm

    Hope this helps you.

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