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Elected officials hear HCC challenges

November 13, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

It's the fastest-growing community college in Maryland, according to current enrollment figures, but along with that distinction come challenges for the administrators at Hagerstown Community College - notably, having facilities and faculty to educate all of those new students.

HCC's trustees explained those challenges Friday to four members of the Washington County Delegation to the General Assembly during a meeting on campus.

Attending were Sen. John Hafer, R-Washington/Allegany/Garrett; Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington/Allegany; Del. LeRoy Myers, R-Washington/Allegany and Del. Rick Weldon, R-Washington/Frederick.

HCC President Guy Altieri told the legislators that the school has posted double-digit growth for four straight semesters, currently posting a 10.23 percent increase with 3,535 students enrolled.

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The number of students enrolling at HCC presents "capacity challenges," Altieri said, and while state and local governments have been supportive of the school's capital improvement needs, the school is looking for some long-term commitments, both for its capital projects and its operating costs.

The HCC trustees asked the lawmakers to look at three areas for increasing funding:

· Trustee Patricia Cushwa noted that HCC has a number of out-of-state students, but doesn't receive state money for them equal to money allocated for in-state students. Getting reimbursement for these students "wouldn't represent much in the state budget, but it would benefit (HCC) tremendously," she said.

· Altieri and trustees Chairman Merle Elliott asked that the state consider using community colleges for workplace training, which would make them eligible for training grants.

· They also asked the legislators to try to protect Small Community College grants.

"Tuition doesn't pay for all of it," Elliott told the group.

"The most striking need is on the operating front," Altieri said. Right now, HCC gets a $500,000 allocation from the state's Small Community College fund. But if current growth continues, Altieri said, "By '07, we may no longer qualify as a small college."

Because of the demand for courses, the school needs to increase its faculty, Altieri added.

"We've stretched our faculty as far as we can stretch them," he said.

Additionally, there's no state aid for special services required for students with learning disabilities, who represent 5 percent to 10 percent of the school's enrollment, he said.

He asked the legislators for an outlook on higher education funding in the next fiscal budget, but got no solid answers.

"The governor is trying not to harm education dollars," Munson said. "Because we lost slots there's no new funding sources."

To fund K-12 education, most state agencies face a 12 percent to 13 percent cut, Munson said.

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