LARGO, Md. — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg presented grants to two Maryland community colleges to help cover tuition in their commercial driver’s license programs.
Prince George’s Community College and Community College of Baltimore County received $173,640 and $197,410 respectively, to help with the cost of tuition for veterans, refugees and the underserved. Gov. Wes Moore and staff from both schools attended the event in a PGCC parking lot.
“Before the infrastructure law passed, even if the school qualified for these grants, students would still have to cover a lot of the tuition. Here at Prince George’s, that comes roughly to about $4,000,” Buttigieg said Wednesday. “We’re tearing down that barrier with federal funding so that they can get funded to come to an excellent institution like this.”
The Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation is part of an ongoing effort to expand job opportunities within the trucking industry. This assistance is available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Buttigieg said. The law, officially known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, provides resources to fix decaying roads, bridges, waterways and rails, and boosts transit projects, broadband access and climate change resilience, among other things.
A commercial driver’s license is required to operate large vehicles, including school buses, large delivery trucks, shuttles and tractor trailers, among others.
“We believe in veterans, and we believe in the importance of trucking, for the country, for our economic security, and for our future,” Buttigieg said. “You in Maryland have a governor who understands the importance of infrastructure and of transportation in people’s everyday lives.”
Both Buttigieg and Moore are veterans — Buttigieg was a naval officer and Moore served in the Army — and both were Rhodes scholars. The two announced in January a project to rebuild the 150-year-old B&P Tunnel in Baltimore, renaming it the Frederick Douglass Tunnel.
James Brackins, 70, a recent graduate of the commercial driver’s license program and an Army veteran, introduced Buttigieg to the crowd of under 100. Brackins joined the program as a part of his goal to build affordable housing in his hometown of Jonesville, Louisiana.
“Now, I’m one step closer to achieving that goal,” Brackins said. “It gives me great joy to know that others will be supported in their dreams, just as I have been supported thanks to PGCC.”
Moore and Buttigieg greeted staff and the CDL instructors and toured the commercial tractor trailers used in the program. PGCC partners with Mr. George’s Driving School of Gaithersburg, which provides instructors and equipment for training.
At one point, Moore hopped in the passenger seat of a commercial tractor trailer to ride along with a demonstration of driving through the parking lot and backing up between cones.
Moore praised PGCC, mentioning his visit a few weeks prior with President Joe Biden to the campus.
“It says so much about this administration that just weeks after the president came to Prince George’s County Community College, that Secretary Buttigieg is here again as well,” Moore said.
Community colleges are an important area for Moore because he attended a two-year college, receiving an associate degree from Valley Forge Military College. In his speech, Moore said his junior college experience was the foundation of his career.
“Our support for community colleges is not just everlasting, it’s personal,” Moore said.
In 2023, PGCC’s transportation, distribution and logistics departments trained more than 500 students and it has enrolled more than 300 more since July.
“Much like the Department of Transportation, we, too, are committed to the mission of providing safe, efficient, sustainable and equitable commerce in our community,” said Sherrie Johnson, vice president of external affairs, communications and advancement at PGCC.
Buttigieg has been in Maryland since his iMPACT Maryland forum Tuesday, sponsored by The Baltimore Banner, where he addressed electric vehicles and transit infrastructure. During that event, the secretary was forced off the stage by climate protesters critical of a planned oil export facility near Houston.