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Delegation, HCC discuss growth issues

November 19, 2005|By TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - The growing number of students and where to put them was the main topic of discussion Friday as Hagerstown Community College officials asked members of the Washington County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly to safeguard funding in this year's state budget for both operating and capital expenses.

Addressing what he called "enrollment growth and budget realities," HCC President Guy Altieri told the legislators that the school is "not aggressively advertising for more students ... we are at capacity until we can secure new facilities" for conducting classes.

Altieri said the school is on track to begin work on an $11.6 million project to renovate the Career Programs Building and add parking and a traffic loop. The state and county governments already have allocated $2.3 million for the project, and Altieri said the school expects another $6.8 million in the state's fiscal year 2007 capital budget. The fiscal year begins July 1, 2006.

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Right now, the school has expanded its hours of operation to accommodate the need for classroom space until more is constructed, Altieri said. Courses are offered from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and last year, HCC began offering classes on Sunday. There are "makeshift classrooms in a lot of locations," Altieri said.

The school is looking at several other renovations and upgrades in the next six years, including major renovations and construction for its arts and sciences facilities.

Total for-credit student enrollment at HCC this year is 5,031, according to statistics released by the school. Noncredit enrollment is 8,695.

Altieri attributed the school's growth to a "deeper penetration of the existing population," adding that he expected about 500 high school students to start college early by also enrolling in HCC courses next year.

"We're the only school in the state that provides scholarship money to high school students to start early," Altieri said.

The lawmakers also were asked to consider changes to the funding formula for community colleges, which currently receive the equivalent of about 25 percent of the state funding provided to the University System of Maryland. Altieri explained that state dollars are budgeted for the university system based on full-time enrollment calculations, which include out-of-state students. Community colleges, however, are not permitted to count out-of-state students in their enrollment calculations. The result is less state funding than the community colleges would otherwise get, Altieri said.

Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, assured the HCC board that committee Chairwoman Sheila Hixson, D-Montgomery, was committed to addressing the problem this year.

The General Assembly convenes in January.

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