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HCC students meet lawmakers

February 11, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- While working part time and attending school full time, Rachel Lighter says she barely makes enough money to scrape by.

The 21-year-old Hagerstown Community College student said it's taken her longer to complete her education because of a learning disability.

"It's almost wiping out my bank account," Rachel said. "Sometimes it makes you think, 'Why am I still doing this?'"

She's almost earned her degree, but asked state lawmakers Wednesday what they could do to make college more affordable for other Maryland students.

Rachel was one of about a dozen students and staff from HCC in Annapolis on Wednesday to meet with members of Washington County's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly.

Students viewed the House of Delegates in session, toured government buildings and had plenty of questions ready for their local representatives.

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HCC Student Government President Andrew Smith, 19, said he was most interested in hearing about the federal government's economic stimulus bill and what it might contain for the nation's community colleges. Smith, a political science major, said he also was interested in meeting lawmakers to "see what they were like."

He said the delegates and senators he met Wednesday were very "down to earth," and he was impressed.

On the minds of many of the HCC students was the rising cost of tuition. Many said they'd like to see Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal to freeze tuition at Maryland's four-year institutions expanded to include two-year community colleges.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said it was unfair not to include community colleges in that plan.

Donte Holmes, 20, of Hagerstown, asked the delegation to continue supporting HCC, which has a lower dropout rate than other schools that have received more funding, he said.

All members of the delegation who met with the students pledged their support for the community college, which has experienced a spike in enrollment, according to staff members.

The country's economic downturn has caused many to be laid off, and many, like HCC student Marty Farmer, have returned to school for additional training. HCC also is more cost-effective than nearby four-year or two-year schools, Farmer said, which is another reason enrollment has grown.

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