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Anne Arundel Community College is joining forces with the state's other 16 community colleges to make sure the schools get their due.

Despite the fact that more Maryland residents now are choosing to attend community colleges over four-year and private institutions, rising community college enrollment has been met by a decrease in state financing, officials of the new Maryland Association of Community Colleges say.

Organizers say MACC was formed to serve as an advocacy group, to speak with a unified voice. The group's focus will be on the General Assembly.

"Community colleges are not being properly served," saidAACC board chairman Donald Roane. "We're the major force, the major player in higher education, and we should get support."

The Arnoldcampus has experienced tremendous growth in enrollment in recent years, although the number of students attending the college dropped slightly last year. The enrollment decline has been attributed to a reduction in state funds and the resulting increase in tuition.

Patricia Perluke, MACC chairwoman, said the organization began as a conceptjust last December. With the State Board for Community Colleges being abolished June 30, the community colleges and their trustees felt they needed to present a unified voice to the legislators.

Both thetrustees and the presidents of the community colleges maintain theirown separate organizations.

Of the 266,000 students who enrolled in state colleges last fall, about 115,000 attended community colleges.

John M. Sine, president of the Maryland Council of Community College Presidents, said community colleges are seeing such growth for many reasons.

"Traditionally students went to community colleges because they were affordable and convenient," Sine said. "Those reasons still apply. Tuition at community colleges remains about half of that of four-year colleges and considerably below that of private colleges."

Sine said that the quality of community colleges may be the real reason behind the increase in enrollment. Still, despite the increase in enrollment, community colleges have not received an increasein financing, Sine added.

"Over the past five years our enrollment has increased 10 percent and our funding has decreased 8 percent," Sine said.

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