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HCC faces cuts

March 18, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

Facing cuts in state aid and no increase from the county, Hagerstown Community College may have to raise tuition for the second straight year and eliminate positions to make up for a potential shortfall in the fiscal 2003 budget, Dean of Administrative Services Anna Barker said.

She said the college also will probably put a freeze on hiring and cut capital spending.

Gov. Parris Glendening is proposing a $15.4 million cut in funds to the state's 15 two-year colleges for 2003. The cuts would bring total state aid to community colleges down from $174.9 million to $159.5 million, or an 8.6 percent cut.

As a result, HCC would receive $456,000 less than expected, Barker said. HCC anticipated receiving $5.57 million from the state. That allocation would drop to $5.1 million if the state slashes funding, she said.

It would also bring HCC's proposed fiscal 2003 budget of $17.4 million down to about $17 million.

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The governor has also proposed cutting $5 million slated for capital spending for two-year colleges across the state.

HCC is also feeling a pinch from the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

The commissioners so far have not budgeted an increase for HCC for fiscal 2003. The school requested a $285,491 increase from the county for 2003, or a total of $4.9 million. The county currently contributes $4.6 million toward HCC's budget.

Barker said that with an increasing enrollment and reduced funding, it's likely tuition will go up for the second year in a row.

HCC raised tuition for the current school year by $4 per credit for county students, from $70 to $74. Out-of-county students paid $5 more, from $114 a credit to $119. Out-of-state students saw a $13 increase, from $143 to $156.

"We were not anticipating to increase tuition (for next year), but if we get the cut from the state, it's likely we'll have to increase it some," Barker said.

She said she does not yet know how much tuition may go up.

Barker said HCC planned to create several new positions for 2003, but one proposed for the computer center has already been cut to save costs.

If other positions were to be cut, she said they would be in areas that have the least impact on students.

She said she will discuss the possible increase and other cost-saving measures with HCC's Board of Trustees. The board meets Tuesday at 1 p.m. at the college.

Board of Trustees member Carolyn Brooks said a tuition increase is always the last option, but it's an issue to seriously consider in light of the possible cuts.

"I think everyone is aware of the economic situation," Brooks said. "You hope for the best and have to deal with whatever the fallout might be."

Barker said the county's options aren't much different than what the state's other community colleges are facing.

Howard Community College in Columbia, Md., is poised for a tuition increase, postponed construction and cuts in personnel and travel. Carroll County Community College in Westminster, Md., may have to delay the start of a nursing program without the necessary funds to construct a nursing education building.

Washington County Commissioner John Schnebly said the commissioners will decide whether HCC will receive an increase after they hear the college's budget presentation on April 2.

The county is facing a tight 2003 budget because of the recession and has just $3.4 million in new revenue to distribute among all groups that receive funding from the county, including the Washington County Board of Education.

The School Board is tentatively scheduled to receive a $1.4 million increase from the county over its current contribution of $68.3 million. The School Board had asked for a $5.78 million increase from the county.

Schnebly said the School Board may receive less than a $1.4 million increase.

"Anything's possible," he said.

The commissioners are asking groups that receive funding from the county to hold the line on expenses and delay taking on new initiatives, Schnebly said.

"When you have an economic downturn, you just have to adjust and wait for things to get better," he said.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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