Starting next fall, students will be able to earn an associate of arts degree at Harford Community College without ever setting foot on campus during weekdays.
The college is planning expanded course offerings that will enable students to earn a degree by attending classes on Saturdays and Sundays only.
A few courses are currently offerred on Saturdays, but most classes are held during the day or evening Mondays through Fridays.
This would be the second expansion of the college's weekend course schedule.
Starting in the fall, students can get bachelor's degrees on campus. The degrees, in nursing and business administration, are offered by the Weekend College of Notre Dame of Maryland.
The affiliation with HCC marks the first time Notre Dame, which began its weekend college in 1975, has established a satellite program.
Notre Dame will pay Harford Community College 6 percent of its tuition receipts for operating expenses.
HCC is negotiating with other four-year colleges, including University of Maryland, Towson State University and Morgan State University, to offer bachelor's degrees on the Harford campus.
Fran Turcott, HCC spokeswoman, said the weekend classes provide more educational choices for students and, at the same time, accommodates the school's growing population.
PD "We are stretched to the limit," she said. The campus population
has grown so much that there aren't enough classrooms at peak times, typically early morning and evening.
Last year, there were 5,200 students enrolled at HCC. The college population has grown by 22 percent over the last three years, Ms. Turcott said. Enrollment figures for the fall semester were not available Friday.
Ms. Turcott said lack of classroom space at Harford is the reason that four-year colleges, like Notre Dame, must limit course offerings to weekends.
Expanding weekend courses also means support operations, like the library, must also extend hours, Ms. Turcott said.
This fall, when bachelor degree candidates begin taking classes, the library will expand its Saturday hours to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and, for the first time, will be open on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The switchboard will also be open on Saturdays for the first time from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. when classes are in session. The bookstore will be open as needed, probably just at the beginning of the semester.
So far, about 125 students have signed-up for one or two of the 10 Notre Dame classes being offered on Saturday, according to Mary Lou Carney, the Notre Dame coordinator at HCC.
She said Notre Dame plans on offering classes, which can accommodate 25 or 30 students, on Sundays if demand for the program grows.
"Business classes so far have been the biggest draw," Ms. Carney said. About two-thirds of students participating in the new program are registering for business classes.
"The first reaction of students is that they are very glad there is a four-year degree available in Harford County," Ms. Carney said.
"A lot of people come in and tell me that they have been waiting for just such an opportunity," she said.
Students must have a counseling-interview with Ms. Carney before registering for classes.
"Many students are planning on taking just one course, which is what we encourage those students to do who have been out of school for a long time," she said.
"Your whole life changes when you go back to school."