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Tuition-assistance proposal modeled after Garrett County, Md. program

October 06, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |

Two years ago, when Dr. Mitesh Kothari and local attorney Jeanne Singer became co-chairs of the Greater Hagerstown Committee’s Education Forum, they decided they wanted to tackle a meaningful project.

So they brainstormed with forum members, who are representatives from local educational institutions, and gathered data to devise an annual educational report card for the community. The issue that came to the forefront, they said, was the low percentage of people with post-secondary education among Washington County residents.

…The tuition-assistance proposal is modeled after a program in Garrett County, Md., which is funded through the Garrett County government and has experienced success, Greater Hagerstown officials said.

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Garrett College may lose tuition subsidy

Action would affect out-of-county students in juvenile justice program

Megan Miller
Cumberland Times-News

MCHENRY — Garrett College is in danger of losing a state tuition subsidy that helps the school draw students to one of its largest programs and helps the students get a more affordable education.

The college’s juvenile justice program is currently on the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s statewide designated program list. That means Maryland students from outside Garrett County can enroll in the program for in-county tuition rates.

The state subsidizes the difference between the in-county and out-of-county tuition, so the college doesn’t lose money on the program. Instead, it likely benefits from increased enrollment, said James Allen, director of institutional planning for the college.

“Juvenile justice is one of our largest programs overall, and of its current group of students, a little over half are from out of county,” Allen said. At 2009 tuition rates, out-of-county students saved $130 per credit hour, which could add up to more than $8,000 for a 64-credit-hour associate degree.

But in November, the MHEC notified the college that the program was one of several it was considering removing from the designated program list as of fall 2010.

A Jan. 13 MHEC memo from George Reid, assistant secretary of planning and academic affairs, said that the statewide subsidy program had been suffering from budget deficits over a period of several years, and as a result, a “more restrictive set of criteria” had to be used to “cut back substantially” on the programs receiving tuition subsidies.

Garrett’s program was slated for removal because of the “amount of students attending the program,” said MHEC spokesman Christopher Fal-kenhagen, who could not elaborate.

But overall, the program, launched in 2000, has seen enrollment increase over the past several years. In 2004, the fall enrollment was 52. In 2009, the fall enrollment was 70, according to Elizabeth Biser, director of the program.

Biser said the MHEC lists three criteria it uses for evaluating designated programs. Programs can be removed from the list if they train students for a job that is no longer new or emerging, if the job field shows a lessening demand for graduates, or if the type of program in question has become more widespread and accessible to students statewide.

But the only other community college in Maryland to offer a juvenile justice associate degree is Anne Arundel Community College, Biser said, 200 miles away from Garrett College. Also, of the 26 students enrolled in that program, only a few are from outside the county.

“While AACC’s program is primarily serving its immediate area, Garrett College’s program is enrolling students from throughout the state,” Biser said.

Biser said the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers used to determine demand for the program’s graduates aren’t specific to the juvenile justice field. Instead, juvenile justice job statistics are lumped in with corrections officers, probation officers and correctional treatment specialists, she said. That makes it more difficult to get an accurate report on the demand for graduates in the field.

Through an appeal process, Garrett College managed to secure its program’s place on the MHEC designated program list for 2010-11. But it’s been marked as one of several programs that will be monitored closely in the future, and it could be removed after next year, Allen said. Other programs now being monitored include three at Allegany College of Maryland — hotel and restaurant management, culinary arts and massage therapy.

If the college does lose the subsidy for its juvenile justice program, it won’t affect in-county or out-of-state students, because they aren’t eligible for the tuition reduction, Allen explained. It also won’t affect out-of-county students already enrolled in the program.

But the college could no longer offer the financial incentive to out-of-county prospective students, and that could have a significant impact on the program’s future.

“I would think that we would definitely see a drop in numbers if students had to pay the higher tuition,” Allen said. “It would affect our enrollment, which affects our tuition revenue, which affects everything else.”

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