Harford college focuses on role in community

Leader: Local institution acts as a center for education, arts, community service and training.

October 27, 2002|By Jennifer M. Sims | Jennifer M. Sims,SUN STAFF

Now in its 46th year, Harford Community College, a mere three miles east of Bel Air, is similar to many college campuses. Baseball caps, T-shirts, sweat shirts, bumper stickers and other paraphernalia promoting the school line the far wall of the campus bookstore. Students meet in the student center for lunch on Tuesdays, when a disc jockey performs. Complaints about parking are recurrent, but students marvel at campus renovations, such as the new library, which opened in 2000.

Students praise Harford for its academic rigor and affordability.

Most of the nearly 5,500 students that attend the college on 331 acres near Churchville are from Harford and its many towns, which provide the names for several campus buildings.

It is a college, administrators say, where its role within the county is not only as a source of higher education but also as a leader in business training, arts and cultural events, and community service and support.

"Community colleges are conceptualized so that an important part of what we do is in return to our community. ... We think we do a good job of working with the community, and we're proud of it," said Rusty Stephens, vice president for instruction.

"It's dirt cheap, and the education is good," said Owen Jarvis, 20, who transferred to HCC after a semester at Elizabethtown College in southern Pennsylvania. Jarvis is a second-semester student and is a defender on the men's soccer team.

Harford County residents pay $65 a credit hour at HCC, much less than the $122 demanded of Maryland residents at Baltimore's Coppin State College, the least expensive of the state's four-year public colleges.

Jarvis' teammate Chris Kropp, 17, agrees that the college is a bargain. Kropp, a first-semester education major, was accepted to Towson University but chose Harford for its lower tuition. Kropp plans to transfer to Towson after two years at HCC.

Harford students can enroll in one of 43 areas of study, including criminal justice, environmental technology and interior design. Academic programs are offered in various formats, such as university transfer curricula, certificate programs and career education.

HCC's student body is becoming younger, with a greater number enrolling directly after high school. Two-thirds of the students are in degree programs, and 25 percent intend to transfer to four-year institutions.

The HCC staff also operates the Higher Education and Applied Technology Center in Aberdeen, commonly referred to as the HEAT Center.

Various universities, including the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, College Park, offer bachelor and graduate programs through the center.

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