Committee rejects HCC 4-year degree proposal


Harford Community College won't be issuing baccalaureate degrees - not anytime soon, anyway.

The House Ways and Means Committee killed legislation last week that would have allowed the college to offer four-year degrees in a limited number of fields.

"They gave it an unfavorable report," Del. Barry Glassman, a Republican from Harford County who serves as chairman of the county's legislative delegation, said of the committee's action on the bill supported by county lawmakers.

But the committee's action does not necessarily mark the end of any hope for bachelor's degree programs at HCC.

Del. Sheila E. Hixson, a Montgomery County Democrat and chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee, said she wants the people at the college and the University System of Maryland "to sit down and work together" to address the county's education needs.

She wants the University System to set up third- and fourth-year classes at the community college.

Hixson said the Harford business community might also have a role in the process. "I told the college that the business community should step up and try to help with programs for the school, or even provide instructors. Maybe something can be worked out where companies would get a tax credit for providing assistance," she said.

This was the second consecutive year that lawmakers turned down the school's request to alter its study program to address the needs of county residents who for various reasons found it difficult to travel out of the area to further their education.

Harford County has no four-year colleges. But it does have several out-of-county institutions, such as the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in various majors at the Harford County Higher Education and Technology Center.

HCC wanted to offer bachelor's degrees in technology, professional studies and applied sciences.

Claudia E. Chiesi, president of HCC, told the committee during a hearing last month that the extended courses were designed solely to serve the needs of the county.

She said that each year, hundreds of students in the community miss out on the chance to further their education and earn considerably more money during their lifetimes because they are unable to travel out of the county to attend a four-year school.

The school was closed for spring break last week, and Chiesi could not be reached for comment.

Lundy DeGrange, a 34- year-old single parent from Bel Air and a student at HCC, testified that it would be nearly impossible for her to pursue a longtime dream of obtaining a bachelor's degree if she had to travel to Towson, College Park or to the University of Delaware.

"Is it too much to expect to make all of our lives significantly easier, a little less impossible, by offering us easier access to a bachelor's degree?" she asked the committee members.

Glassman said the legislation was designed to complement, not compete with, four-year schools.

But there was strong opposition to the legislation from four-year institutions.

Donald F. Boesch, interim vice chairman at the University System of Maryland, argued that if there were sufficient demand for four-year programs at HCC, he was certain that something could be arranged.

He said the university system has been holding talks with HCC to set up four-year degree programs through the University of Maryland's University College.

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