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HCC expands tuition program

April 28, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

A half-priced tuition program offered through Hagerstown Community College to Washington County Public Schools students now has opened its doors to private school and home-schooled students.

ESSENCE, or Early Support for Students to Enter College Education, is a dual-enrollment program designed through Hagerstown Community College, which originally offered tuition at half the price of the college's in-county tuition to public school students in their junior and senior years of high school, HCC President Guy Altieri said.

The Washington County Board of Education and HCC signed a formal agreement on the program's guidelines in February.

But after getting calls from members of the private school and home-school communities asking why they were left out of the agreement, the HCC Board of Trustees last week decided to also allow junior and senior students attending private or home schools to participate in the program, he said.

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"They're all taxpayers, and tax dollars help support the college," Altieri said.

Home-schooled students must have a Washington County address in order to take advantage of the program, he said.

Sandi Roberts, whose five children were home-schooled and have attended HCC, said she thinks the program will benefit many families in the community.

She said she already has heard from families who plan to take advantage of the program when it begins this fall.

Diane Favret, St. Maria Goretti High School director of admissions and marketing, said since the school is small, it only can offer a few advanced classes to its college-bound students. She said by enabling students to go to the community college, they not only will have more class options, but also will experience life outside the private school community, of which most have been members since elementary school, she said.

"They're already paying tuition to come here, so to go and pay another tuition is hard on our parents and our students," she said.

Favret said she thinks the tuition cost break will draw more students to take classes at the college.

Altieri said although the door has been opened to private schools, no agreements have been signed so far between the college and any county institutions.

Under the agreement with the school system, participating students would receive high school credit and Hagerstown Community College credit if they complete and pass a college-level class, Boyd Michael III, the school system's executive director of secondary education, has said.

All students would have to take up to 12 credits, Altieri said.

To be eligible, public school students must have a 2.5 grade-point average, have completed required High School Assessment tests, and pass a placement test, COMPASS, designed by the joint Learning Community Project between the two school systems, he said.

Altieri said private and home-schooled students also will have to take a test to determine whether they qualify for college-level classes.

In the school system's agreement with the college, teachers who have at least a master's degree in the subject they teach can teach any of the dual-enrolled programs and would receive a $300 stipend if they choose to teach the college-equivocated course, Arnold Hammann, the school system's supervisor of enrichment, has said.

Private school teachers likely would have the same opportunity to teach a dual-enrolled program and receive a stipend, Altieri said.

But if a home-school teacher has the qualifications to teach a dual-enrolled course, he or she would be able to apply to teach at the college instead of receiving a stipend, he said.

The ESSENCE program will start this fall for all students, Altieri said.

"We'll do everything we can here to increase the number of college-bound students," he said.

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