Online chat with Guy Altieri

October 23, 2005

Moderator: When you took the reins at HCC in 2002, you said you would plan the college's future by looking to its past. You then met with college officials and community leaders about the school's history. What did you hear and what was the most important thing you kept from HCC's past?

Altieri: The feedback I got was that the college was extremely well-postured for easy entry of students to a variety of program areas and that everyone wanted to continue the tradition of a comprehensive, open-door community college. Over the last three years, enrollments have gone up by approximately 33 percent. This is a clear indication that we continue to be the community's college, responding to the needs of the community and the needs of individuals for postsecondary education.

Moderator: In 2002, your list of strategic goals included more educational opportunities for high school students, including new health care, technology and education programs that would match up with what the local school system is doing. Is that partnership working well?


Altieri: Since 2002, the most significant partnership initiative with the county schools has been the initiation of the ESSENCE Program (Early Start Students Enter College Education). It allows high school juniors and seniors who are ready to get an early start in their college studies. Currently, we have approximately 450 high school juniors and seniors taking college credit courses. This program is open to students attending local public and private high schools, as well as students who are home-schooled. We have found that ESSENCE students do extremely well and have grade-point averages that match or exceed the traditional college-age students. HCC and Washington County Public Schools continue to work well together to encourage more students to continue their education beyond high school. Within the next few years, 75 percent of all new jobs in Maryland will require some level of education beyond high school. So this partnership remains critically important to the success of the county.

Webmaster: With the ESSENCE Program, is there a tuition discount for high school students?

Altieri: County students enrolled in the ESSENCE Program receive a 50 percent discount on in-county tuition. The ESSENCE II Program, for out-of-county students, provides a 25 percent discount for them.

Moderator: In March of this year, you requested an almost $800,000 increase in the HCC budget, saying the need was there because HCC is one of the state's fastest growing community colleges. Have tuition increases at the University System of Maryland schools brought more students to HCC?

Altieri: With HCC becoming one of the fastest growing community colleges in the state, we have had significant resource challenges. Increased enrollments meant we had to hire additional faculty, purchase additional instructional equipment, as well as renovate and expand our facilities. Therefore, the modest increases that we have requested to serve more students has resulted in HCC's cost per FTE (full-time equated) student remaining one of the lowest in the state.

Yes, I do believe that tuition increases at USM schools has been one of many factors driving more students to attend HCC. Another significant factor in our enrollment growth has been the expansion of credit programs.

In 2002, we had 37 programs of study. Today, we have more than 100. This expansion has occurred in all of our curricular areas, including university transfer programs, as well as programs that train students for immediate entry into the job market.

We've also developed "ladder programs," which permit students to progressively work through higher levels of academic achievement. The best example of (this) is in our nursing curricula, where we have established a nursing assistant program, a practical nursing program and our traditional associate degree RN program.

Someone interested in nursing can pursue the nursing assistant program over one semester, get a good job, then return to the college later and pursue a practical nursing certificate. And even later in their professional career, they can return to the college to secure an associate degree in nursing. These career ladders are especially helpful to students who do not have the finances or the life circumstances to pursue an associate degree immediately.

Moderator: What is the most important thing (or things) that HCC must accomplish in the next few years?

Altieri: HCC needs to add "more muscle to its mission." To accommodate increased enrollments, we must increase our resources. The County Commissioners have been supportive in helping increase our operating budget and financing capital improvement projects. In addition, the college must address the challenge of keeping its faculty as strong as possible.

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