Commission ponders community college's challenges in future

Strategic growth plan, business partnerships needed, report says

April 21, 1999|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

When Mary Ellen Duncan became president of Howard Community College six months ago, one of her first official acts was to create a Commission on the Future charged with helping to make the college more competitive as it heads into the next century.

Yesterday, after months of talking, researching and brainstorming, the commission released its 40-page report to the public.

It offers detailed suggestions about how the college can better serve students in an age that is increasingly global and computer-oriented.

Among its recommendations, the report said the college should: Develop a strategic plan for growth, expand its programs for the growing elderly population and create a marketing position to convince prospective students of the benefits of a community college education.

"This college has a lot of talent, and it hasn't been marketing it or projecting it in the way that it could do," said commission Chairman Patrick Huddie, president of Enigma Technology Ltd. and vice chairman of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

Create better partnerships with business to serve employers and students, in part by assigning staff to stay informed about employer training needs.

"That's an area where we can take more leadership," Duncan said.

Require all HCC graduates to meet "a minimum standard of technology competency" and purchase software systems that are most commonly used in industry.

Make it easier for students to transfer credits, and standardize testing and prerequisites.

Encourage multilingualism in students and faculty.

Duncan said the college's biggest challenge heading into the next century will be keeping up with Howard County's booming population.

"You must be prepared for growth, and you must reach markets that are untapped," she said.

Commission members also urged the college to work harder to support risk-taking and encourage pilot projects.

"In an environment of change, the college needs to be very agile," Huddie said.

The 15 commission members included former Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker; Barbara Lawson, executive director of the Columbia Foundation; and Richard W. Story, executive director of the Howard County Economic Development Authority.

An additional seven task forces comprising 39 representatives of business, nonprofit groups, government and education, addressed critical issues in higher education.

"What was remarkable about the process was how much the community learned about the college and how much the college learned about the community it's embedded in," said Huddie.

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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