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Hagerstown Community College enrollment expected to top 4,000

August 25, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Mike Jump sticks out among his classmates at Hagerstown Community College.

Jump, 48, said he enrolled at HCC after he was laid off in February from his job as a maintenance supervisor.

"They decided to consolidate," he said. The job market "is rough out there."

A former heating and air-conditioning professional, Jump said he is trying to get back into that field, but wants to take management classes at HCC to improve his chances.

"There's a lot of openings in my trade, but there's a lot of competition," Jump said. "You have to separate yourself from the crowd."

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Jennifer A. Fisher, director of admissions at HCC, said students like Jump are becoming more common as they return to college after losing their jobs.

The struggling economy, combined with other factors, has caused enrollment to jump about 10 percent at the campus, Fisher said. It is anticipated that this year will mark the first time HCC's student population will top 4,000.

"We're anticipating there will be at least a 10 percent increase" in enrollment, Fisher said. "We're pretty much at this point out of classroom space ... But there's still enough wiggle room to get the students in the seats."

In addition to the bearish economy, Fisher said she attributed the enrollment increase to a broader course selection, a nursing program that has grown from about 40 to almost 100 students, and an expansion in online class participation.

Fisher said online classes at HCC have swollen by about 40 percent since last year. Much of the growth could be caused by higher gas prices. People would rather study at home than drive to class, she said.

"We offer online courses in almost every general education category," Fisher said. "The online classes offer flexibility for people who have jobs and families to raise."

Kristin Hines, 40, of Hagerstown, knows about juggling a family with a full course load.

Hines said she has been raising two children on her own since her husband died in 1998. Working at least 40 hours a week at McDonald's, she said, isn't "cutting the mustard."

"I'm barely getting by right now," Hines said. "That's the main reason I'm going back to school. I need to raise kids and make a good living."

Hines said she is carrying a "B" average and wants to become a certified public accountant. With a year of classes under her belt, Hines plans to finish at HCC and transfer to the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown. If everything goes as planned, Hines should graduate in 2010, she said.

HCC's bookstore manager, Danny Dell, said he is getting used to seeing more 30- and 40-somethings come in to buy books.

"You can see our average student each year is getting a little older," Dell said. "It's not that the number of younger students in going down, but the number of older students is going up."

Dell said several of the older students have told him they recently were laid off after working at one place for 25 years.

"They've never done anything else," Dell said. "It's sad."




HCC enrollment data



Enrollment at Hagerstown Community College over the last five years:

2008 -- 4,200 anticipated

2007 -- 3,873

2006 -- 3,753

2005 -- 3,671

2004 -- 3,654

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