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Helping UM succeed

March 03, 2003

Even though he upset University of Maryland officials by not talking to them first, Hagerstown Community College President Guy Altieri was right to speak out on the university's new campus downtown. The surest way for this project to get lost in the shuffle is to stop talking about it.

Altieri irked UM officials because he gave Washington County's General Assembly delegation an eight-page outline of challenges the new campus faces - and his prescriptions for handling them.

The Hagerstown campus is based on one in Shady Grove, Md., where eight different universities offer courses. Altieri says he's concerned that with Gov. Robert Ehrlich recommending cutbacks in higher education, such institutions wouldn't bring programs to Hagerstown. Instead, the HCC chief said, they'll concentrate on their home campuses.

Altieri said the Hagerstown campus should be opened to out-of-state institutions and private schools. He also said HCC should have a larger role there, because it can offer things UM cannot, like child-care services.

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We understand why the University System does not want to pay for the construction and maintenance of the Hagerstown campus, only to see it opened to programs from competing out-of-state schools. But Altieri may be right about deans of the various university units being reluctant, when budgets are so tight, to offer programs here.

Why not ask the in-state units what they'd be willing to do? If the answer is "not much," then Hagerstown officials should get the green light to ask the out-of-state folks and the private institutions for proposals.

University System officials should also look more favorably on Altieri's offer to handle items like child care. Having child care on-site would not only make it convenient for educators with small children, but would also boost enrollment by single parents with no other child-care options.

Should Altieri have previewed this plan with university officials first? That's the way they feel, but citizens have to remember that university officials didn't want to come downtown in the first place. They just may need a little prodding to find the best way to work there.

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