Harford Community College has taken a step toward its long-time goal of offering four-year bachelor's degrees at its Churchville campus.
"It's a step in that direction," Claudia E. Chiesi, president of HCC, said of the recent signing of an agreement with University of Maryland University College that makes it easier for the community college students to transfer credits toward a four-year degree at UMUC. The college will create classes that will meet UMUC requirements.
Merodie Hancock, assistant provost at UMUC, said that under the current system, HCC students can take third- and fourth-year classes online. This will help UMUC identify the number of students interested in particular classes "and this could open the door, down the road, to putting face-to-face classes at Harford Community College."
Chiesi has been lobbying the General Assembly in recent years to establish a limited number of bachelor's degree programs at HCC.
She has argued that hundreds of students at the community college miss out each year on the chance to further their education and to earn considerably more money during their lifetimes because they are unable to travel out of county to attend a four-year school.
Harford legislative leaders testified at last year's session of the General Assembly that the community college's efforts were designed to complement, not compete with, four-year schools.
Harford County has no four-year college or university.
Chiesi has said that more than 600 graduates of HCC over a six-year period have not moved on to get their bachelor's degrees. She thinks that 40 percent of those students would have stayed on to get a bachelor's degree if it were available.
Four-year colleges throughout the state have opposed Chiesi's efforts. They argued that no other community college offers bachelor's degree programs and there is no need for Harford to have one.
Under the alliance with UMUC, students will be able to enroll in programs that include accounting, business administration, computer science, computer and information science, computer studies, environmental management, human resources management, information systems management, legal studies, management studies, psychology and secondary-teacher education.
Gerald Heeger, president of UMUC, said the agreement starts a new relationship between the two schools. "It is a relationship where students will feel part of a super institution made up of HCC and UMUC," he said.
He said that he looks forward to a time when UMUC instructors will be teaching classes at the HCC campus, but that it is too soon to say when that might happen.
In turn, he said, he wants HCC instructors to teach classes at UMUC.