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HCC leading the way into future

January 23, 2013

Sometimes we, as a community, are so absorbed with fault-finding that we fail to notice the success stories that reside right under our noses.

We have a number of shining lights in Washington County, but Hagerstown Community College would have to rank among the brightest.

Reinforcing that perception this month were statistics revealing that Hagerstown Community College outgained all other community colleges in the state in enrollment percentage, and was near the top when all other institutions of higher education were considered, as well.

Higher education, in our view, is on the brink of some major structural changes, and clearly HCC is out in front on a number of these issues.

Tuition at traditional four-year universities is bordering on the obscene, and countless students have been forced into taking on a massive load of student-loan debt. With the economy still sputtering, this means students are graduating with prodigious amounts of debt and no ready employment to help pay them off.

To combat this, HCC is adding night classes, is offering for-credit courses to high-school students and is expanding its presence in online coursework.

This makes it easier and less expensive for students to earn certificates and associate degrees, and to get a head start if a four-year education is the goal. It’s hard to overstate the value of this to the community.

On a related note, we would urge all involved to keep at the fore Greater Hagerstown Committee’s bold proposal for county-sponsored tuition for Washington County students. This idea would erase the financial barrier for any high school student who wanted to attend HCC. While details have yet to be ironed out, we believe it is not only a laudable goal, but a crucial one as well, considering Washington County’s well-documented deficit of college-educated workers.

It will be fascinating to see what becomes of education in the coming decade.

Some of technology’s leading luminaries are famous for, among other things, failing to bother with a traditional college degree. And many courses that used to be proprietary to venerable, ivy-covered classroom buildings can be found on YouTube.

The one thing that seems self-evident is that schools that fail to adjust to the times will be left behind. It is good to know that HCC does not plan on being one of those schools.

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