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Frostburg Center losing $100,000 a year

June 17, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

The Frostburg State University Hagerstown Center has lost about $300,000 in three years, FSU President Catherine Gira said Thursday.

The university lost $98,000 in fiscal 1997 and has lost about the same amount each year since, she said. The fiscal year begins July 1.

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Annual losses rose for several years before leveling off after fiscal 1997, she said.

As enrollment at the 11-year-old center increased, so did related costs, particularly for technology and salaries for full-time staff and full-time faculty, she said.

The Hagerstown Center had an all-time high enrollment of 446 students for the fall semester.

Gira surprised Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook by announcing Wednesday the university is losing money in the "six figure" range.

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"It was news to me," Bruchey said later.

Snook, who is on the FSU center's advisory board, said he does not recall hearing any discussions at meetings about the downtown center losing money.

Gira made the "six figure" comment during Wednesday's meeting of the steering committee, which reaffirmed plans to build the University System of Maryland, Hagerstown campus at Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park.

In response to a question during the meeting, she said the university could not afford to be at both the downtown location and at the University System campus. Frostburg is part of the University System.

The university's position is that it is "underwriting" the downtown costs in order to provide classes to Washington County residents, she said.

Despite the annual losses, Frostburg State will not leave the downtown site until the new campus is built, she said. Classes are scheduled to begin in September 2002.

Hagerstown City Council's decision to offer a free site for the system campus was sparked by word the Frostburg State University Center would pare back operations at its downtown location, Bruchey has said.

Bruchey said he was worried not only that the city would lose the possibility of a University System campus that could revitalize downtown, but that it would have another empty building downtown.

Gira said during Wednesday's meeting that Frostburg State might continue to offer classes at its Public Square center.

Hagerstown Community College also might offer some classes at the center, President Norman Shea said.

The conference center would remain available for use by community groups, Gira said. The center, which cost more than $240,000 to convert for Frostburg's use, was dedicated in May 1998.

The city of Hagerstown paid about $125,000, or half of the cost.

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