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Swartz proposes free HCC tuition for grads

November 13, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County Commissioners Vice President Paul L. Swartz proposed Tuesday that every new graduate of Washington County Public Schools be given free tuition to Hagerstown Community College, and he called on area businesses to help pay for the costs.

Swartz said free tuition would get more students in college and generate a better trained work force for local businesses.

"We sat here for four years and said education is our top priority," Swartz said after the meeting. "Now let's put our money where our mouth is."

Swartz, who expects about 1,000 students to take advantage of the program if approved, said it would cost the county about $1 million if businesses also pitched in toward the costs.

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"We have it in our cash reserves. We have it in our surplus," he said. "Now it's something that you're either willing to do or you're not willing to do.

"If you're not, tell the people you're not willing to put your money where your mouth is."

HCC charges county students $77 per credit hour, or $2,530 a year in tuition.

HCC President Guy Altieri could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Washington County Public Information Officer Carol Mowen said school officials were tied up at a meeting Tuesday night and could not comment, and she also said they did not have enough information on the proposal to comment.

Swartz said passage of the proposal would give the current commissioners an opportunity to leave behind a legacy. Swartz and Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger were defeated in their bids for re-election last week.

The proposal received little comment from the other commissioners, Swartz said.

"They didn't respond. They just listened," Swartz said. "I might have to hammer them again next Tuesday."

Commissioner President Gregory I. Snook said after the meeting that the proposal is something the new board will have to look at.

He said discussion came up about it a year ago, but it was dropped because of a lack of time to study it.

"We just never really had time to deal with it," Snook said.

Swartz said that if the proposal is approved, the next county board could set up criteria that students would have to meet to stay in the program.

"I just want to lay the proposal out and let someone else design the guidelines," he said.

HCC was established in 1946 and has an enrollment of more than 2,500 students from throughout the Tri-State area.

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