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Campus 'jump-start' suggested

April 12, 2000|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - The University System of Maryland might begin offering courses in Hagerstown before its downtown education center opens in 2004.

Sen. Donald F. Munson arranged a meeting Wednesday between University System of Maryland Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg and Washington County business and higher education leaders.

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"We don't have to wait until the bricks and mortar are there," said former Washington County Commissioner Ronald Bowers, who suggested the idea to Munson a few weeks ago.

Work on the Hagerstown education center is expected to be finished in late 2003, with the first classes to be offered spring semester of 2004.

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The $12 million-plus center initially was expected to open in the fall of 2002, but the opening has been delayed, in part because the site was switched from property near Allegheny Energy's headquarters along Interstate 70 to the downtown Baldwin House complex.

Langenberg and other University System officials agreed to investigate the possibility of offering courses sooner at the Frostburg University Center in Public Square.

"What we can do this fall I don't know. I'll scare up some resources and see if we can't get a jump-start on this as soon as possible," Langenberg said.

Munson, R-Washington, suggested offering courses in undergraduate teacher education, undergraduate social work and technology programs such as software engineering.

Area employers have indicated a need for nursing, business administration, physical and occupational therapy and accounting, said John A. Sabatini Jr., assistant secretary for planning and academic affairs at the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Langenberg suggested the possibility of a program for entrepreneurs.

The FSU Center's enrollment has remained steady at about 450 students over the past few years, said President James Shaw.

He said it is somewhat "worrisome" that undergraduate enrollment has dropped.

Currently, 400 are FSU students, 12 are taking a criminal justice program offered by the University of Baltimore, 26 are in a master of social work program of the University of Maryland-Baltimore and 16 are University of Maryland School of Nursing students.

The business community wants the University System not only to fill immediate education needs, but to help position the county for the future, said Tom Newcomer, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

"We'd like to make the high-tech opportunities and the good paying jobs available," Newcomer said.

Shaw said for that to work, the public schools must start preparing future students of technology while they're in middle school.

In addition, the education center will have to be a regional center, attracting students from nearby Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

"You have a quality of life that is rare and a work force that is spirited. All the potential is there. The presence of the University (System) of Maryland is going to help that," said Frank Komenda, the University System's associate vice chancellor for state relations.

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