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Chancellor: University set to open in one year

January 08, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

The University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center is set to open in one year, Chancellor William "Britt" Kirwan said Wednesday.

Kirwan said he is confident that Gov. Robert Ehrlich will put an extra $1.8 million in his budget to operate the center in its first year, he said.

Ehrlich will unveil his proposed budget for 2004-2005 later this month.

Speaking to members of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce at its monthly "Eggs and Issues" breakfast at the Plaza Hotel in Hagerstown, Kirwan thanked the community for writing letters of support for the University System money.

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"It could leave doubt in no one's mind about the importance of higher education to the community," he said.

Because of budget constraints, Ehrlich did not allow the University System to ask for the money during the budget process, Kirwan said.

But Kirwan said he put the request on a "wish list" that he's presented to Ehrlich and his budget team.

Kirwan thanked local lawmakers for their lobbying.

"We wouldn't have a chance for this without the united support of the Washington County Delegation," he said.

Once in the budget, the line-item will have to survive the legislature's budget cuts.

Construction on the center is well under way, with work expected to be finished in October or November and the first classes to be held in January 2005, he said.

The education center will be in the former Baldwin House complex on West Washington Street in downtown Hagerstown.

By the fall semester of 2005, the center will be in full swing, offering courses in computer technology, business, education and nursing, he said.

"These are all areas where we know there is a need in this county," he said.

Other undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs will be added as needs arise, he said.

The center also will offer noncredit courses, he said.

A search committee is looking for an executive director for the center, which will be run by eight staff members, including a facilities manager and student advisers, said Gertrude Eaton, associate vice chancellor of academic affairs.

The center will be modeled after the Shady Grove Center, which offers students degrees from eight University System campuses.

Kirwan said he opposes a proposed cap on tuition rates for the University System without more money from the state.

Higher education took a 14 percent cut in the budget last year, which forced the elimination of 800 jobs and led to tuition increases, he said.

At the same time, the system is experiencing budget cuts, more students are graduating from high school and seeking higher education, he said.

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