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HCC balks at thought of partnership with Kaplan University

August 28, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

Kaplan University’s local campus plans to market itself to Hagerstown Community College graduates, but HCC wants no part of it.

Kaplan is offering tuition discounts to HCC graduates, according to an email that W. Christopher Motz, the president of Kaplan University in Hagerstown, sent HCC President Guy Altieri.

Altieri wrote back that HCC isn't interested in a partnership — HCC students have “much better transfer options” than Kaplan, a for-profit school owned by The Washington Post Co.

In his Aug. 12 email to Altieri, Motz wrote that Kaplan will have a new initiative aimed at community college graduates, who would get a tuition break if they pursue a bachelor's degree at Kaplan.

"In the coming weeks, our marketing department will be launching this campaign and promoting it in a number of ways, including a direct mail piece that will be sent to recent HCC graduates," the email says. "I want to assure you that this program is meant to provide continuing educational opportunities to HCC graduates and will in no way be targeted to current students, nor will current HCC students be eligible."

Motz also wrote that anyone with an associate degree will receive junior status toward a bachelor¿s degree and may try a program that lets new students take Kaplan courses for up to five weeks without paying tuition.

"I hope that you will join me in embracing this initiative as an opportunity for local graduates to have even greater options for continuing their education," Motz wrote. "I would be happy to discuss the details of the program with you further, including ways that we could collaborate on the promotion of this initiative."

Altieri replied in an email on Aug. 18, saying he and members of his executive team "are not interested in a formal partnership."

He wrote that HCC already has transfer and discount tuition arrangements with Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Shippensburg (Pa.) University, and other partnerships with Hood College and University System of Maryland at Hagerstown schools.

"We consider all these entities strong partner institutions and urge our graduates to give them the highest consideration in their transfer plans," Altieri wrote. "As Kaplan moves ahead with its new marketing plans, please do not state or imply HCC is a Kaplan partner or that the HCC faculty or staff are suggesting our graduates consider Kaplan as the next step in continuing their education.

"We tell our students, quite frankly, that there are much better transfer options for them to consider. In summary, we do not believe Kaplan's partnership offer is in the best interest of our current or former students."

HCC spokeswoman Beth Stull said Altieri was out of town Thursday and Friday and unavailable to comment. However, in an email, Stull wrote that HCC opposes a partnership with Kaplan because HCC already has transfer agreements with nearby "publicly supported four-year universities that offer tuition at a lower cost than Kaplan."

Also, she wrote, "HCC administrators are concerned about entering into a formal partnership with Kaplan University, a for-profit proprietary school, at a time when schools of this type, across the nation, are showing documented financial struggles and waning financial projections."

She continued: "This follows a recent investigation into the practices of these for-profit schools, led by a U.S. Senate committee in which many for-profit institutions have been questioned with regard to their recruiting efforts, financial-aid programs, job placement rates, and other business practices. Just this month, the U.S. Justice Department and four states filed suit against one for-profit school, stating possible violations to the federal Higher Education Act."

Motz said in an interview that Kaplan is trying to help increase the higher-education opportunities in the area. He noted that Washington County has one of the lowest percentages in the state of adults with bachelor's degrees and that Kaplan was the first school in Washington County to offer bachelor's degrees.

"We were not seeking a partnership with HCC," Motz said, calling his email to Altieri "a heads up" about Kaplan's plans, so HCC wouldn't be caught off guard.

As Hagerstown Business College - before the affiliation with Kaplan University - the school received approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission in 2007 to offer four-year degrees, along with its two-year degrees and certificates.

At the time, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown urged MHEC to deny Hagerstown Business College's request, arguing that it would "derail the efforts" to build up the fledgling USMH campus.

On the other side, Washington County Commissioner John F. Barr and Bradley D. Pingrey, who was chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, supported HBC's plan, saying it would boost higher education and make the county better suited for high-technology jobs.

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