May join efforts

HCC, PGCC

Schools discuss offering variety of classes in Laurel office building

April 26, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Howard and Prince George's community colleges are weighing an unusual marriage of convenience.

Officials from the two schools want to jointly offer a range of classes - from computer certification to English as a Second Language - in Laurel.

In a move that they believe would break new ground for Maryland community colleges, HCC and PGCC would lease part of a 10-story office building to attract students from Laurel and surrounding counties.

"Mutually, we could provide both counties a higher level of service than if we stay territorial," said Fredrick Nunley, vice president for administration and finance at PGCC. "If it happens, it will be a big first of showing how you can pool resources to deliver resources."

HCC's board of trustees unanimously approved a "letter of intent" last night that signals its support of the idea. The trustees must make a final decision within a month: PGCC, which approached HCC with the proposal, wants to start the program in September.

"Maybe it could be called Prince Howard," joked Joan Athen, who chairs HCC's board.

She said the two colleges are considering a three-year lease of three floors in the Laurel Executive Building. The space is set up for high-tech training because it was used by Computer Learning Centers, which filed for bankruptcy in January and left everything - computers and furniture - in the building. About 500 students unexpectedly found themselves without classes, Athen said.

"We think we can have the clients," she said. "They've been there before. ... I see a lot of possibilities with a presence there. There's 130,000 people living within 10 miles of the building."

In addition to computer classes, the colleges are thinking about offering courses in Spanish, yoga, daycare certification and other areas.

The colleges would split the cost of renting the 32,800-square-foot office space. Nunley said the advantages of sharing the bill is what prompted PGCC to look for a partner.

Athen said HCC - which earlier decided against leasing space in high-cost Howard County for its Business Training Center - could find the money in its continuing education budget but would need approval from the County Council.

She said the proposed partnership interests HCC's board in part because PGCC could decide to offer the services alone if HCC opts out.

The building, at 312 Marshall Ave., is 13 miles from Howard's campus in Columbia, about six miles closer than the Prince George's campus in Largo.

"This is our territory," she said. "We're the closest college to benefit - or be hurt."

But HCC officials also like the concept philosophically.

"This is, in fact, the way community colleges should be moving," said trustee Frederick A. Schoenbrodt.

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