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The drive from Havre de Grace to Newark, De., is less than an hour. Similarly, depending on traffic, it is possible to get to Towson or downtown Baltimore in an hour or less from Bel Air, Edgewood, Joppa or Fallston. York and Lancaster in Pennsylvania aren't all that far away, either.

These places, and others situated in a driving range that most adults would consider a reasonable commute to work, are all home to four-year colleges and universities. From Goucher to Millersville to the Maryland Institute College of Art to Notre Dame of Maryland to Johns Hopkins — and the list goes on -some of the finest institutions of higher learning are within easy striking distance of Harford County for anyone with a car and a valid drivers license. Heck, one of the country's military service academies is theoretically within driving distance; plebes don't commute.

The point is it's possible to study just about anything from post-modern art to brain surgery at a college near Harford County. Yet hints continue to be made that Harford Community College could have four-year degree programs and dormitories in its future.

Addressing a recent gathering of the Harford Business Roundtable for Education, HCC President Dennis Galladay outlined a vision for his school that includes such things.

As presented, the vision for four-year degree programs appears relatively limited to those things that would be accomplished in cooperation with established four-year schools, notably Towson University. This is reasonable, so long as it doesn't become the first step on a path to doing what was done in Cecil County, namely turning Cecil Community College in to Cecil College, a school with its own four-year programs.

Unfortunately, the notion of adding dorms, ostensibly for the purpose of attracting foreign students, seems to be an indication that there's a move afoot to turn a perfectly good two-year college into a small, undistinguished four-year school.

In Harford Community College, those who want to pursue a degree have a wonderful resource. The school has fine teachers, a good reputation and offers those on a budget the opportunity to secure the basics needed for a degree at a relatively low cost, all while being exposed to an array of what college life offers.

An unfortunate trend in higher education in recent years has been expansion, and not necessarily for any good reason. There are those who view this trend as being a contributing factor to the increasingly extraordinary cost of a college degree.

Community colleges have been at the forefront of bucking this trend by offering a solid point of entry to the world of higher education at a reasonable price. This is a good and noble spot in the lexicon of higher education, and one that shouldn't be abandoned without a very good reason.

And as we've said in this space before, other than empire building, there's no reason for HCC to become a four-year school.

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