While Gov. Martin O'Malley was at Howard Community College this week to learn more about its performance measurement system, he received feedback on what the state can do to improve its performance in the eyes of HCC students.
Easier transfer to four-year institutions, more financial aid and funding for construction were topics raised in a short question-and-answer session between the governor and students Monday at the Columbia campus.
County Executive Ken Ulman invited O'Malley to the college in part because the Dragon's Vital Signs system -- developed by staff members to measure the performance of college departments against a series of benchmarks -- was influenced by the CitiStat program O'Malley implemented while he was mayor of Baltimore.
"We wanted to show off something that we learned from you," said HCC President Mary Ellen Duncan.
O'Malley called the use of CitiStat as a model "the highest form of flattery."
Under the college's four-year-old system, all of HCC's areas identify and evaluate measurable results, such as the number of students who complete associate's degrees, the number of nursing students who pass a state examination or the amount of time it takes for a technician to respond to a computer problem in a classroom.
That information is combined with measures at broader departmental levels and regularly examined by the college's top leaders and the board of trustees.
Duncan said two key elements of the system are for the staff to lead the process by identifying what to measure and what goals to set, and for the workers to take pride in the results.
Alexander Novodoski, a former HCC student government president who is a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, told the governor that when he attended the community college he was pleased to learn of the measurement program. "It is important to see this institution is reviewing themselves and trying to make improvements," he said.
Other students were prepared to talk about the difficulties they face in pursuing an education.
Susan Kane of Elkridge told the governor that 14 credits from HCC were not going to be accepted at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she plans to continue pursuing a degree in secondary education.
A statewide program has standardized the requirements needed to transfer to four-year schools to study elementary education, as well as a few secondary subjects, but other areas of education and other areas of study remain subject to individual school's policies.
O'Malley agreed that more streamlining would be helpful, particularly in areas where workers are in great demand, such as education, nursing and engineering.
Jennifer Weathers of Columbia said that as a mother of two soon-to-be college students whose husband has a good income, she has financial burdens but falls between the cracks of existing financial aid programs.
O'Malley noted his plans to increase funding for higher education and freeze tuition across the board. "We believe when we invest in a more affordable system of higher education, it's good for everyone," he said.
Angelique C. Graham, a nursing student from Odenton, said she was originally wait-listed for the accelerated and the traditional nursing programs because the college lacked space to accept all of its qualified applicants. She asked if there would be state assistance to build a $30 million health sciences building at the college. O'Malley said funding for construction at all levels of education is stretched thin.
"We have huge capital needs as a state. We have huge capital needs as a country," he said "Over the course of the next year, we're going to be grappling with the issue of our revenue not keeping pace with our need for investment."
In closing, O'Malley called HCC "a great campus," and praised its leadership.
"Some of the most innovative and dynamic leadership is taking place at the community-college level," he said.