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USM-Hagerstown campus cutting jobs due to low enrollment

July 02, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Five of the 18 staff jobs at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown were cut Tuesday because of lagging enrollment.

A USM-H press release says "enrollment has not met projections for which the current staffing level was anticipated."

The campus opened in 2005 and had 356 students that fall. This spring, there were 380 students, an increase of almost 7 percent.

C. David Warner III, USM-H's executive director, said that when the campus opened, he was hoping for at least 500 students.

That was based on the approximate number of Frostburg State University students in Washington and Frederick counties in 2003.

Two years later, after FSU closed its Frederick center and joined the USM-H campus, it was down to 330 students. Warner said the loss of Frederick students contributed to USM-H's difficulties.

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USM-H's modest enrollment was an element of a funding tug-of-war this year in the Maryland General Assembly. A Southern Maryland delegate trying to secure extra education money for his district argued that the Hagerstown campus gets more funding yet serves fewer students than other regional higher education centers.

The bulk of the USM-H budget for fiscal year 2009 was restored in the session's waning days.

Supporters have said the campus needs time to grow, just as USM's Shady Grove center in Rockville, Md., did.

In its fourth year, USM-H has expanded from three schools and 12 programs to six schools and 19 programs.

Tuesday, when the job cuts were announced, was the first day of the fiscal year.

The jobs are connected to campus operations, not individual academic programs, which are expected to expand further in coming years.

An estimate of how much money the job cuts saved wasn't immediately available.

One job that was cut was associate executive director, a position that JoEllen Barnhart held since before the campus opened.

Barnhart said she wasn't sure what she will do next, but remains committed to higher education and hopes the campus thrives.

"It becomes part of your heart and soul," she said. "There's a piece of me that will always be there and a piece of that place that will always be with me."

USM-H spokeswoman Erin Harman said the other eliminated positions were business services specialist, manager of building and grounds maintenance, program administrative specialist and library technician II.

Laid-off employees will get 90 days of pay and benefits, Warner said.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said he's confident the employees will be called back as USM-H succeeds. In the meantime, he said, he'll help them find other jobs.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said he was saddened by the layoffs, but they might help the campus create more programs.

"I think what we are talking about is a short-term loss for a long-term gain," he said.

USM-H opened with four employees. Harman said that number reached 18 in August 2007.

Warner said some employees were hired in anticipation of a larger student body.

However, "enrollment has grown less quickly than we thought that it would," said Jonathan C. Gibralter, the president of FSU, which administers USM-H. "Based upon the market of Hagerstown, Maryland, and the numbers of high school graduates and the numbers of students attending Hagerstown Community College and others, it just seems that the potential is greater."

With manufacturing and farming roots, many Washington County residents traditionally didn't try for college degrees, Munson said.

"That's not the way the world is anymore," he said. "Education is the name of the game."




USM-H enrollment figures



In nearly three years, enrollment at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown increased about 7 percent, less than was expected.

Number of full- and part-time students

Fall 2005 356 Spring 2006 341

Fall 2006 344 Spring 2007 336

Fall 2007 396 Spring 2008 380

Source: Universty System of Maryland at Hagerstown

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