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HCC education designed for degree, transfer and just for fun

September 14, 2006|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - In 1946, Hagerstown Junior College existed primarily to educate returning WWII soldiers so they could transfer to four-year universities.

Sixty years later, Hagerstown Community College offers more than 100 programs of study.

Students can spend two years close to home before transferring to a university or they can take enough classes at HCC to begin a career, said Michael Martin, an academic adviser for HCC students.

HCC still does a lot of work with credit transfer because it is the most basic function of a community college, said Guy Altieri, HCC president. But its mission has grown to include preparing students for careers and offering remedial education for people who don't have a strong enough academic background to take college classes.

The average age of the 5,200 students taking classes for credit is 27, and 26 percent of students are older than 30, according to Daniel E. Bock, assistant director of admissions, records and registration.

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About 9,000 students also participate in continuing education or noncredit courses.

"People simply take them (classes) for the enjoyment of taking them," Altieri said.

College for Kids, HCC's summer enrichment program aimed at students in grades one through 10, is one such continuing education program, he said.

HCC also works with local businesses to train employees as part of a "customized training" program, he said. Customized training has been in place for decades, but in the last few years has grown significantly, Altieri said.

Thirty-seven percent of HCC's students are considered full time, Fisher said.

HCC subscribes to the "career ladder" model.

"It's permitting an individual to get a very basic credential and build from there," Altieri said.

Nursing, one of HCC's most popular programs, follows the "career ladder." With one semester of classes, students can enter the work force as a nursing assistant. After one year of classes, students are qualified to work as licensed practical nurses. In two years, students can earn an associate degree in nursing, which is a competitive program, Altieri said.

Education is another popular course of study, because students know there is a shortage of teachers, Martin said.

The "career ladder" is ideal for single parents trying to get something better than a minimum wage job because it allows students to move at their own pace, Altieri said.

Altieri said that HCC tries to evolve as the community's demographics change. Every few years, HCC performs "environmental scans" of the labor market to see what local employers need. One such scan led to the recent growth in the commercial vehicle transportation certificate program, because there was "a tremendous need for truck drivers," Altieri said.

Technology is another area of rapid growth. HCC recently announced a plan to install special labs at its Technical Innovation Center in an effort to attract biotechnology firms to the area. Faculty members are designing a biotechnology course of study to complement the labs.

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