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University System of Maryland to expand

November 02, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Since adding programs and students, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown is experiencing space constraints at a building detractors originally wanted demolished.

For Executive Director C. David Warner III, that shows the campus' plan is working.

"I think the pace of the growth is exactly where it should be," Warner said last week.

On Oct. 25, university officials announced that Frostburg State University will begin a bachelor's in education program at the campus next year. The program will be among five new arrivals next year at the campus, which started with 11 programs.

Before classes began in January 2005, people questioned whether the West Washington Street location was appropriate. Since then, Warner observed, buildings throughout downtown have been remodeled, and new businesses have started.

"I think we're a catalyst for that change," he said.

The campus provides evidence of a trained work force in a community that values education, Timothy Troxell said. As executive director of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, Troxell said he has heard company officials ask about the university.

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Troxell speculated that the campus might add programs in the biomedical field, in which he said a number of area residents already work.

"I think once we continue to foster that, the companies will follow the work force," Troxell said.

Employment trends in Washington and Frederick counties and neighboring counties are key to determining what programs the campus pursues, Warner said.

"We want to make sure the programs we're bringing here have job growth potential, (that) there are jobs out there," Warner said.

In 2007, Towson University will begin offering bachelor's and master's programs to nurses, and Salisbury University, which currently has no affiliation with the campus, will offer bachelor's and master's programs in social work, Warner said. The number of universities participating at the campus likely will increase again in 2008, he said.

At the Universities of Shady Grove in Montgomery County, Md., eight institutions offer more than 40 programs. Irv Goldstein, the university system's vice chancellor for academic affairs, said he expects Hagerstown's campus will experience similar success.

"Our goal is ... to meet the needs, and we assume that's going to more than fill our building," Goldstein said.

According to Warner, the Baldwin House complex already is "pretty full" at night, and the library is cramped for room. He said there is little office space and no student lounge.

"Classroom space, you know, we're going to look at getting full, provided that these programs do draw students," Warner said.

If that happens, Warner offered one possible fix:

"There's plenty of buildings downtown, as we all know, so maybe that's a solution," he said.

In its first semester, the campus served about 350 students, Warner said. Now, almost 400 students attend classes at the campus, he said.

The university system is looking for the campus to grow by 100 full-time equivalent students a year, Warner said.

On its Web site, the University System of Maryland defines the formula for determining full-time equivalent student numbers as a weighted combination of full-time and part-time students.

Like Warner, Goldstein expressed confidence about the progress so far. He pointed out the community is growing.

"It's not too different from a marriage, right?" Goldstein said. "You need two people to be partners. You need the community and the student demand for the program."

In Hagerstown, Goldstein said he believes the system has found the right components.

"I think the future's very bright simply because the growth numbers are very bright," Goldstein said.

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