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As the Harford Community College Board of Trustees begins its search for a new president, the current president was again thrust into the spotlight on the issue of tuition increases, just days after he announced his retirement effective in mid-2016.

On the watch of HCC President Dennis Golladay, there have been several tuition increases, prompting the introduction of legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that would have set legal standards that would have to be met prior to tuition being increased.

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Golladay, however, successfully lobbied the sponsors about the college's financial situation and why such requirements would be counter-production, and the bill has been withdrawn.

Del. Pat McDonough, one of the sponsors, said Golladay made a reasoned appeal.

As McDonough put it: "He [Golladay] explained the state and the county had been reducing their funding and that has caused them to have four consecutive tuition increases, but they feel like they were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and they will have a balanced budget next year without the need for tuition hikes."

There is some logic behind the tuition increases enacted by the college in recent years. Even as the cost of doing business as a school has not decreased, the point is well taken that state and county funds were indeed cut in recent years.

Another kind of logic, however, was largely ignored in Golladay's argument. The state and county governments were cutting allocations to the college because tax revenues were down. Tax revenues were down because of a weak economy that also put strains on many household budgets.

Household budgets don't have the same option of cutting back on expenses in bad times that are open to governments. If the cost of tuition goes up at the community college, the only way to avoid paying for the increase for some less fortunate students is simply not to go to college at all.

In economic hard times, a community college, more so than a private institution, has an obligation to try to keep its costs down if for no other reason that when people are priced out of range at a community college, they aren't likely to go to any college. And, securing a college education is the price of admission to personal economic advancement. If personal economic advancement is priced out of range for an increasing number of people, well, the prognosis for the American way of life is not good.

It would be wrong to say the college should have kept its tuition the same in the face of cuts, but it is just as wrong to presume tuition increases are justified because other funding sources are scaled back in economic hard times.

On the whole, Golladay's tenure as a leader at the college has been marked by substantial successes – to include the fruition of a local partnership with Towson University. In addition, he has been a visible presence in the community and a substantial advocate for the college. Indeed, his lobbying effort in Annapolis with regard to the tuition oversight bill serves as an indication of how effective he can be.

The substantial increases in tuition on his watch, however, are hardly a shining example of the leadership he has demonstrated in those other areas.

As it searches for a new president, the college's board of trustees would do well to find someone who has both Golladay's comfort level in dealing with people from all walks of life, as well as someone who has a firmer grasp of the economic situations faced by families trying to put kids through college. Better management of the HCC budget from year to year is a must if the past economic pitfalls are to be avoided by the next college administration.

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