Kaplan College-Hagerstown turns 70

School has been through five owners, three locations and two name changes

School has been through five owners, three locations and two name changes

July 18, 2008|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Much has changed in the 70 years since Hagerstown Business College's first 12 students began classes in the basement of the Professional Arts Building downtown.

The college has gone through five owners, three locations and two names as it progressed from a secretarial school to the degree-granting, four-year college it is today.

Still, as Kaplan College-Hagerstown celebrates its 70th anniversary this month, its current president, Christopher Motz, can point out one thing that has stayed the same.

"Probably the thing that is preserved that is most significant is the mission," Motz said. "The fact that the college is still very focused on helping people get a new career. That's why the college was started 70 years ago."


The Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce honored that legacy Thursday with a Chamber event at the campus, where the chairman of the Chamber board, David Abeles, spoke about the college's contributions to the community over the years, Motz said.

Hagerstown Business College alumna Doris Nipps, a former Washington County Commissioner and Washington County Board of Education member, said one of the college's strengths always has been its close ties to local businesses.

"Whatever businesses are looking for, as far as skilled, educated folks to come into their business, Kaplan's been able to change and accommodate those businesses," Nipps said in a telephone interview earlier this week.

Nipps completed an 18-month medical assistant program at HBC in 1972 and, within three weeks of her graduation, was hired as an office manager for two local pediatricians.

When she attended, most students entered the college directly out of high school, and many came from out of town, Nipps said. Back then, the college was on North Potomac Street and hundreds of students walked there every day from the Dagmar Hotel and neighboring College Hall, which served as the college's dormitories, Nipps said. The three main divisions were a medical secretarial school, a legal secretarial school and a general business secretarial school.

Over the years, the college's offerings, like its students, have changed with the times, Motz said. Stenography has morphed into computer applications and accounting, medical office work has come to encompass specialized insurance coding and a number of computer-related programs have been introduced. Since 2007, students have been able to enroll in four-year bachelor's degree programs in business administration and information technology.

Despite all the new programs to brag about, college officials say the institution's long history plays an important role in its marketing, too.

"It's kind of unique in this community in particular, where a lot of people think of higher education as being kind of a new player on the scene," Motz said. "We've been here since 1938 ... We've expanded our programs dramatically and really evolved into a senior college, but our roots go back in the community quite a long way."

College milestones

1938 - Edward J. Hajek founds Hagerstown Business College in the Professional Arts Building in downtown Hagerstown

1941 - Maryland Medical Secretarial School program founded

1949 - The college moves to 441 N. Potomac St.

1957 - National Legal Secretarial School program founded

1973 - HBC is authorized to grant its first associate degrees

1983 - HBC becomes nationally accredited

1985 - The college moves to its current location at 18618 Crestwood Drive

1991- A suspected arson destroys the administration building, forcing a temporary relocation

1993 - New campus administration building dedicated

2000 - Kaplan Higher Education acquires HBC

2003 - HBC is named Kaplan's College of the Year

2007 - HBC changes its name to Kaplan College-Hagerstown and is approved to grant bachelor's degrees in business administration and information technology

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