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Commissioners tour Shady Grove campus

January 25, 1999

UMS Shady GroveBy SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




ROCKVILLE, Md. - By visiting the Shady Grove Center in Rockville Thursday, Washington County Commissioners received a glimpse of what a University System of Maryland campus in Washington County might be like.

The county has been modeling its plans on the Shady Grove Center, sometimes referring to the proposal as "Shady Grove North."

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While a Washington County location has not been selected, two county administrators are recommending putting the campus in a 20-acre site at Allegheny Power's planned Friendship Technology Park off Downsville Pike.

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Any of the system's 11 four-year colleges and two research institutes can offer classes at such campuses.

At Shady Grove, six system colleges offer classes: Bowie State University, University of Maryland University College, University of Baltimore, University of Maryland Baltimore and University of Maryland College Park. About 68 percent of students at the center took University College classes last year.

University College Interim President Robert Myers said Thursday the college wants to start offering classes in Hagerstown this fall, regardless of the status of the proposed campus.

Students arrive at Shady Grove prepared to enroll in classes, but when asked which college is offering the desired classes, students often don't know the answer, said James R. Hartsock, Jr., center assistant director of academic programs. Eventually, employees at the center are able to guide students to the appropriate college so they can enroll.

Each college sets its own tuition rates and has its own staff, Hartsock said. Students can also register by phone.

While this process can sometimes be confusing for students, it works out great for the community, said Hartsock and Harley A. Cloud, center director.

Students love the convenience of being able to attend classes from other colleges right in their own community, Hartsock said. About 73 percent of the students live in Montgomery County, he said. About 6.3 percent live in Frederick County.

Students at the campus also enjoy free parking and furnishings that are more modern and comfortable than those at older schools, he said.

No classes were in session when the commissioners were given their tour of the two-building campus on a 50-acre piece of property.

The campus has some differences from a traditional one, some of which were more visible than others. Instead of a restaurant or a snack bar, there are vending machines and, for groups meeting in the classrooms, catered food.

Instead of a bookstore, materials were being sold in the 9,000-square-foot multi-purpose room.

The most popular classes are those offered on weekday evenings since the majority of the students are working full-time, Hartsock said. The average age of students at the campus is 33, he said. Usually the only classes that are not full are those offered on weekends, he said.

Hartsock said that one of his duties is to make sure that different colleges do not offer the same classes at the campus. Only one college could offer an introductory business management class, for example.

Hartsock predicts that deciding which college will offer which popular classes may be one of the early hurdles in the development of a Washington County system campus.

The Shady Grove Center was established in 1983 at the Montgomery County Public Service Training Academy, but the current campus at 9640 Gudelsky Drive was not opened until 1992.

Those nine years were a logistical nightmare since the campus was forced to use any available classrooms space, including area high schools, for the classes, Hartsock said.

Demand for classes has continually increased, with enrollment increasing from 710 in 1983 to 5,081 in 1990 to 8,573 in 1995 to 11,936 in 1998, Cloud said. Last year, more than half the students were in graduate programs.

The first building was initially used for classes in June 1992. The 53,000-square-foot building has a 300-seat auditorium, three computer classrooms, 12 general purpose classrooms, a telecommunications center and other resources. It cost $9.7 million to build.

"The day we opened this building up, we were full," Cloud said. "The very year we opened this building, we began planning the second building."

The second building was first used for classes in January 1997. The features of the 63,000-square-foot building include 17 classrooms and two biotechnology teaching laboratories. It cost $12.8 million to build.

The state paid $4 million of the cost of the first building while Montgomery County contributed $2.2 million, local businesses chipped in $1.3 million and the rest of the expenses were paid by University College, Cloud said. The state paid all of the expenses for the second building, he said.

Hartsock estimated the cost of a one-building Washington County campus at about $12 million. Washington County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer has estimated the cost at $10 million to $12 million.

Cloud said he is developing plans for a third building at Shady Grove, which would allow enrollment to double. The cost of the proposed 100,000-square-foot building and a parking garage would be about $35 million, he said.

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