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USM chief: We need help from Hagerstown area folks

August 20, 2003|By William E. Kirwan

As the University System of Maryland's Hagerstown Education Center enters the next exciting phase of its development, I want to take a moment to give your readers an update on what's going on behind the scenes at the Baldwin House complex downtown.

It is important for everyone to know that the system is deeply committed to establishing this regional center as a 21st century model for the delivery of undergraduate and graduate education - a hub of teaching, learning and economic development that will benefit Hagerstown, Washington County and beyond.

Several important steps have been taken or are under way. First, we have established a partnership with Hagerstown Community College to provide upper-division courses for community-college graduates.

To put it simply, students will be able to move seamlessly from an associate degree and transition into the last two years of a four-year program provided by participating USM institutions.

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The first institutions scheduled to offer programs at the Center are Frostburg State University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, School of Nursing.

The USM is currently developing an expanded, three-year plan to offer degree programs in areas that are identified by residents of the county as "critical" for the region. The center's academic standards will reflect those of the participating institutions.

This collaborative effort, which also involves the business and civic leaders of Washington County, will mean that students from throughout the region will be able to complete a four-year degree near their homes and places of work.

In addition, graduate courses, certificate programs, training opportunities and a variety of credit and noncredit classes are in the planning stages.

We expect to announce in the coming months those institutions that will offer the first courses at the Center, as well as the classes they expect to provide.

The goal, of course, is to offer students from Washington County and surrounding areas the education they need to establish themselves in growing segments of the region's economy, such as education, information technology, business, and the hospitality industry.

Frostburg State University is the coordinating institution for the Hagerstown Center. Frostburg has the expertise and infrastructure to ensure that students are served, from their first inquiry about classes to the day they graduate.

Frostburg is working with the USM's Office for Academic Affairs, which is in charge of planning for the Center. We are grateful to Frostburg for agreeing to take on this significant responsibility.

Most importantly, we are continuing to make our case for operating funds for the center. Strong state and local financial support is the essential key for the long-term success of the center. Given the constraints of Maryland's budget these days, we need all the help we can get in securing the necessary permanent funding to operate the center.

I urge all citizens of Washington County to impress on state and county leaders just how important this center is to the future of the region. Talk to your local officials about it. They're working hard, and so far they've been successful despite the major obstacles presented by reduced budgets. We thank them for their outstanding efforts to date.

But we all need something more - a true groundswell of support for higher education that is heard across this state. That has already happened at Shady Grove, our education center in Montgomery County, and that facility is growing beyond all expectations. The same thing can happen in Hagerstown.

The bottom line is that this important project is moving forward on schedule. Our target date for opening continues to be spring 2005. With the support of the community, our dreams for a high-quality, higher education center serving the needs of the entire region will become a reality.




William E. Kirwan is chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

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