WESTMINSTER -- For many students, going to Carroll Community College used to be like going to high school. Or even worse, elementary school.
"I felt like I was in high school," recalled 19-year-old David Watson of classes CCC previously conducted in its South Center Street building, a former elementary school. "There were even lockers."
But the recently opened Washington Road campus -- with its $13.5 million Great Hall -- has changed all that.
"It's like going to a real college now," said Lisa Love, an early-childhood education major who attends CCC full time. "It's a big change. The old campus wasn't all that great for learning. The atmosphere here is better."
The "real college" will be formally dedicated at 2 p.m. Sunday, with Gov. William Donald Schaefer as a guest. County government and education officials are also expected to attend.
Tours of the new building -- a three-story, brick structure, crowned by a glass atrium -- will follow the ceremony. The combined Carroll and Catonsville Chorus, under the direction of Dr. Paul Evan Walker, will perform.
The campus, however, was unofficially opened in August with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Classes began the same month.
Since then, some finishing touches, like planting grass, have been completed. Others, however, remain to be completed. CCC officials have asked the County Commissioners for money to complete such projects as the construction of exterior concrete stairs at the rear of the building and a staff parking lot in their budget requests for fiscal 1992.
But even with those not-so-noticeable blemishes, CCC officials said the new campus has attracted more students.
There are 2,377 students enrolled in full- and part-time courses at CCC this fall -- that's 339, or 16.6 percent, more than the year before, said Faye Pappalardo, director of student services.
She said 92 percent of those enrolled in CCC courses are Carroll County residents, 6 percent are from Baltimore County and the remainder are from out of state.
The number of full-time students is 576, up 42.9 percent or 173 students from the year before.
"The new building has attracted younger students right out of high school," Pappalardo said. "They want to go to a college that represents a college. This building certainly does."
Some students have compared the Great Hall to a shopping mall. But Watson, a Westminster resident who plans to be a teacher, said the atmosphere -- even in classrooms adjacent to the atrium -- is conducive to learning.
"The first day of classes there was a lot of noise, but when my professor shut the door it was quiet," Watson said. "It's pretty sound-proof. The old building could get pretty noisy."
Other students and faculty have echoed those sentiments.
"There are a lot of people out there in the middle of the day," said Love, also a Westminster resident. "Noise is not a problem if the door is closed."
The Great Hall is merely the first phase of a planned $49.1 million campus on the 80-acre site. Other phases, to be completed over the next decade, include a physical education facility and a fine- and performing-arts center.
Immediate plans call for the construction of a $3.7 million multipurpose building, which would be attached to the existing facility by an enclosed walkway. The new building would provide additional classroom and office space needed to accommodate projected enrollment in 1993.