School stuck in tight space

CCC campus expanding to meet rising enrollment

November 09, 2003|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,SUN STAFF

A parking space has become a precious commodity at Carroll Community College, where driving onto the 80-acre campus can require a little bit of planning.

"I schedule my office hours so that I have a parking space," said Carol Rabenhorst, a professor of geography and geosciences. "I learned by experience to either get here at 8:30 a.m. or after 11:30 a.m."

If there is one way to measure how the college has grown in the 10 years since it became an independent institution, it's in the space -- whether in the increased number of classrooms or the need for more, such as for parking.

Since 1990, Carroll Community College has spent $42.5 million for construction projects to accommodate the growth in student enrollment, new programs and faculty members. About $5.8 million is going toward the construction of a building for training nurses, which is scheduled to be completed by next fall.

But as the two-year college moves into another decade, it faces the challenge of accommodating more students and expanded programs at a time when the state is cutting education funding. At Carroll Community College, the result has been tuition increases in the past two years.

"Growth always has its problems in the sense that -- will we have the capacity to meet the growth?" said Faye Pappalardo, who became the college's second president in 1999. "We see that now as we grow, we need more classrooms and parking. Essential to all of this is: Are we going to have the funding to provide the quality education that we're providing now?"

The college first opened its doors in 1976 at a vacant schoolhouse on South Center Street in Westminster as a branch campus of then-Catonsville Community College, which is now a part of the Community College of Baltimore County. Enrollment was 750 full-time and part-time students.

Karen Merkle, Carroll's vice president of continuing education and work force training, jokes about how tight the space was at the former elementary school building. "My co-worker and I, we sat in an area where we had to bargain with each other for when we could take turns to get up," she said.

In 1990, the college moved into the Great Hall, the focal point of the 80-acre campus on Washington Road. At the same time, a task force examining the college's future recommended that it move toward independence.

Barbara Charnock, then a member of the advisory board for the Carroll branch campus who supported the recommendation, said it was necessary to cut ties with Catonsville for the college's future.

"In order for us to serve the citizens of Carroll community with all the unique needs and gifts they had, we had to center on what was best for Carroll County," said Charnock, now chairwoman of the board of trustees. "As part of the Baltimore County system, we really were not centered on the needs of Carroll citizens."

Three years later, the college became a full-fledged institution of higher learning with 7,770 full-time, part-time, noncredit students and an operating budget of nearly $7 million. Now, there are 11,795 full-time, part-time and noncredit students, and the college's budget is $15.8 million.

Quickly, the college transformed from a "quiet-town atmosphere" into a place of "constant motion," according to Alan Schuman, the school's executive vice president of administration, who started his career there in 1987 as director of administration.

"Those of us who were here 10 years ago, it was a very intimate place to work," Schuman said. "It was so small that people did many things. I used to lock the doors myself."

The campus is no longer so small.

Buildings have been added on the sprawling campus. First the multipurpose building in 1993, followed by the Random House Learning Resources Center in 1997 and the Rotary Amphitheater in 1998 and then the Robert Annis and Phyllis Barrett Scott Center, the Business Training Center and Life Fitness Building last year.

On top of that, associate degree and certificate education programs have been added or expanded over the years, now totaling more than three dozen academic offerings, including teacher education, criminal justice and technology and nursing.

Students can also major in about 25 disciplines and begin studying toward a bachelor's degree at a four-year college. There are even more courses offered through the college's continuing education and training division.

Professors like Rabenhorst, the geography and geosciences instructor, have seen the growth spurt firsthand. Her department has added more courses over the years, resulting in hiring adjunct professors, said Rabenhorst, who started teaching at Carroll in 1979.

"We can't fit the students in the buildings," said Rabenhorst, a former tenured professor at Catonsville who gave up her spot when she was asked to join the faculty at Carroll Community College. "That's very positive even though our classes are overflowing. I rather have that than to have a situation where we didn't have students to teach."

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