The county Office on Aging hopes imposing fees on students will savesome of its popular classes for senior citizens that were doomed by the state deficit.
The classes are offered free to county seniors and are administered and financed by Harford Community College. It will end Dec. 20 because $1.5 million was cut from the school in October to help balance Maryland's budget.
But county aging director James Macgill announced Thursday that classes will resume at Harford's five senior centers Jan. 6, supportedby student fees to pay for instructors and supplies.
The fees have not been finalized but Macgill estimated that they will range between $10 to $25 per session for students to learn exercises, arts and crafts, wood-working skills, painting and writing.
"Some (students)are dismayed because they just can't afford to pay for classes," exercise instructor Barbara Matts said Friday. "Some are picking and choosing what they're going to take. But, if enough students participate, the program will be saved, and I think that will happen."
The county aging office relied on the free HCC courses for more than half the activities it offers at its senior centers.
About half of the office's $1.1 million budget is spent on transportation, and most of the rest is devoted to contracted services for housebound seniors, including physical and personal care, cleaning and meals.
The county could not afford to absorb the $100,000 it cost the college to run the free classes, Macgill said. "Our program won't be anything like as large as theirs," he said.
The college served 2,700 students not only at the senior centers but on campus, at senior housing and nursing homes.
The new classes will be offered only at the senior centers. The college continues to offer swimming and other on-campus programs.
The senior center classes will run only six weeks instead of 12, Macgill said, to avoid prolonging problems that might creep up under the aging department's auspices.
"The only positive thing out of all this is the college had to have state approval for classes," Macgill said. "We can really have classes on anything people want."