By Meghan Thompson

College students in the U.S. share a common worry that often follows them through their years of post-secondary education: How am I going to pay for this? With the price tag of a degree continuing to grow, creative ways to fund college educations are needed now more than ever. Many students turn to their local community colleges to save on tuition for their first two years of college.

The issue has become politically salient as candidates for governor and other offices debate how best to make higher education accessible and affordable. One Democratic candidate for governor, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, has proposed making public colleges and universities tuition-free. The price tag is likely to be very costly.

Garrett County, in the far reaches of Western Maryland, has created a mechanism to provide its students with a free, two-year community college education. It was the first county in the state to institute a promise program for the graduates of its two high schools who enroll at Garrett College in McHenry, just minutes from Deep Creek Lake.

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Center Of Adventure, Experiential Learning Established At Garrett College

Sep. 19, 2013

Garrett College has historically pursued a course of connecting with the adventure industry, and the administration has long recognized the need for the development of additional programming in the college’s academic plan. To meet this need and to expand educational opportunities, the Center for Adventure and Experiential Learning (CAEL) at the college has been established and will operate under the Continuing Education and Workforce Development Division.


College president Dr. Richard MacLennan, who says he is committed to moving this program from concept to reality, remains actively involved as an advisor in the development of CAEL, and said he sees it as a logical step for the college in the spirit of the Garrett College Aventuresports Institute (ASI) and the heritage of Garrett County.

“CAEL has developed into a strong component of the college’s strategic plan,” he said. “Through it we will provide educational opportunities to enhance the long history of outdoor adventure recreation in this region. We are moving along a continuum of creating the programs of study that embrace our area’s greatest assets of wildlife, forests, mountains, rivers, and lakes, as well as rugged venues for outdoors adventure experiences.”

Recently named to the post of program director for CAEL, Michael White has been working with a group of advisors to build the foundations upon which the program will grow. The vision for CAEL was the creation of a program at Garrett College that will become the portal to custom-designed education, training, and recreational experiences in Garrett County, and the surrounding region, he explained.

“The stated mission of the CAEL program is to provide high-quality, adventure-based programing to individuals and organizations with an educational and personal development focus,” White said. “In order to accomplish this undertaking, CAEL will coordinate efforts in the region to utilize the expertise of ASI trained students and other local partners. Using members of the local workforce to implement the educational programs builds an economic development component into CAEL.”

While developing the concepts that would enhance the educational opportunities in the adventure industry, Dr. MacLennan also saw that CAEL would positively impact workforce development and thereby contribute to economic growth in the area. He discussed the perceived benefits with former Garrett County Economic Development director Jim Hinebaugh.

Hinebaugh agreed that the CAEL program being developed has potential to provide a beneficial economic stimulus, which would dovetail well with Garrett County’s Economic Development Strategic Plan, a plan that acknowledged the need for such growth. This discussion helped to create the connection for the development of the blueprint that would become part of the county plan.

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