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Hagerstown campus eyes expanded courses

September 19, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

Aspiring computer-game artists might one day be able to attend classes at the University System of Maryland's downtown Hagerstown campus.

"I feel pretty confident in saying there'll be more programs here in Fall '06, so another year," said David Warner, executive director of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

According to the University System of Maryland's 2005 spring census, 382 students attended classes at the campus during its inaugural semester.

Frostburg State University, University of Maryland Baltimore and University of Maryland University College all offer graduate or upper-level undergraduate courses at the campus. Students can study nursing, accounting, information systems management, sociology, business administration, criminal justice and education.

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The campus opened in the former Baldwin House complex on West Washington Street in January. The Baldwin House, a luxury hotel in its heyday before the turn of the 20th century, by the 1990s was once referred to as "Hagerstown's largest eyesore."

Now refurbished, The Baldwin House has 677 classroom chairs. "So we'll probably start to max out if we hit, I don't know, 3,000 students across a day- and night-time span," said JoEllen Barnhart, associate director of the Hagerstown campus.

With 3,000 students, the campus would "be busting at the seams," Warner said, but he is looking to grow. He said he believes the campus will attract about 50 new students a year for the next couple of years.

The typical student there is older than most college students, Barnhart said.

"She is about 36, taking six credits, raising children and works 30-plus hours a week," Barnhart said.

Most students are attending classes through Frostburg, Barnhart and Warner said.

Warner said he believes the downtown campus might someday mirror the success of The Universities at Shady Grove, a Rockville, Md., education center that has expanded from one building to two and offers day and evening courses. Seven of the university system's 11 degree-granting programs offer classes at Shady Grove.

"It's a bit of a Catch-22: The schools want to see students here before they bring programs, the students want to see programs here before they come," Warner said.

Based on enrollment projections and interest in programs at Hagers-town Community College - the campus' major feeder line of new students - and the job market, Warner said it's likely the campus soon will offer bachelor's degree programs in computer gaming and elementary education.

Barnhart and Warner said talks with various universities are continuing as the campus looks to expand its offerings.

"It's getting serious because we have a facility, we have political attention, we have community support," Barnhart said.

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