HAGERSTOWN — A multi-classroom expansion project at the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown should be ready for students to use next month.
USMH Executive Director Mark Halsey told about 55 people Wednesday during a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce breakfast that the university has been building new classrooms at the former CVS pharmacy at 60 W. Washington St. to accommodate growth.
“It’s beginning to come together,” Halsey said of the project. “We’re hoping for occupancy in not too many more days. We’ll probably not be moving in there until maybe as late as mid-October, when all the fiberoptics and cabling, and all that kind of stuff gets done.”
He said the 2,700-square-foot area will provide three new classrooms for six new faculty members and an additional 90 students.
Halsey said the City of Hagerstown paid for the construction part of the project with a Community Development Block Grant. The university, he said, will pay for such things as furniture and Internet connectivity.
USMH officials also are considering whether to recruit a private businessperson to operate a coffee shop at the university, Halsey said. The coffee shop, which would be a partnership between USMH and the person running it, would serve not only college students, but high school students from nearby Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.
BISFA students take arts classes at the school at 7 S. Potomac St., then walk to USMH on West Washington Street to use the classrooms for traditional courses.
“We think there’s enough traffic downtown with the coffee shops that closed on (Public Square), that people would walk a block for an excellent cup of coffee,” he said.
When USMH opened in 2005, the facility had three universities with seven undergraduate and five graduate programs, Halsey said. Today, the campus houses six universities that offer 15 undergraduate programs, nine graduate programs and one doctoral program.
“We’re still looking for opportunities,” he said.
One of the obstacles that USMH faces is the Maryland General Assembly’s continual threat to reduce funding to the campus, Halsey said.
That threat commonly is spearheaded by Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary’s, who has argued in the past that USMH receives too much state funding.
“While the funding has been preserved, the threat continues to some degree ... we’re concerned about people not coming to USMH because of the concern about its future,” Halsey said.
He asked members of the Chamber to lobby the General Assembly in an effort to secure funding for the campus in the future. He argued that the campus is needed because it is one of the few outposts of higher education in Western Maryland.