Community College Seeks Funds

Westminster school wants to raise $4 million in private donations


Carroll Community College has launched its first private donor campaign, with the hopes of raising at least $4 million to purchase nursing equipment, bolster its library collection and provide more scholarships.

Business and community leaders have pledged more than $1.8 million, college officials said last week.

College officials point to lagging state funding and growing enrollment - which has jumped 33 percent during the past five years - as the primary reasons they need more money. They say that as four-year colleges have raised tuition and limited enrollment to deal with budget shortfalls, more students have flocked to community colleges.

"We're very interested in [increasing] scholarships," said President Faye Pappalardo. "Our tuition has been going up to meet the academic needs of our students as well as the college's needs."

Carroll's tuition is among the five most expensive of the state's 16 community colleges, she said, making it increasingly difficult for students to afford.

The college has about 12,000 part-time, full-time and noncredit students. Last year, the school raised its tuition for the 11th consecutive year. Full-time tuition and fees for the semester are $1,418, while part-time fees are about $592.

"It doesn't sound like much, but $92 a credit hour is a lot, especially ... for students who aren't eligible for financial aid or who are trying to get an education on their own," Pappalardo said.

Money from the effort - called the Partners Campaign - has been designated for scholarships, nursing and allied health equipment, instructional technology and learning resources.

Last year, Carroll's students had more than $1 million in unmet financial need, according to college officials. They hope to raise $750,000 for near-term aid to students as well as $1.4 million for endowed scholarships.

The campaign seeks to raise $800,000 to establish a nursing and allied health equipment fund to keep pace with the field's demands. Among other initiatives, the college wants to create an organic chemistry laboratory for health care and forensic science studies.

An additional $800,000 would fund instructional technology, such as converting the library and tutoring center to wireless capability to provide greater Internet access for research and laptop use. That money would also be used to keep pace with software and equipment advances for information technology students.

A $250,000 library endowment would be created to help the school expand its resources, such as annual subscriptions to electronic databases used for student and faculty research.

With the college considered one of the state's fastest growing, "the Partners Campaign is a way for the college to stay ahead of the demand," said Kelly W. Hill, campaign chairwoman and a 2004 graduate of the college. "We need to be proactive to maintain the high quality of education that is offered here."

Because of state budget constraints, the college received $1.26 million less last year in state funding than officials had expected based on a state formula that allocates funds based on enrollment.

The operating budget this year is $20 million. The funding formula is based on a third of its funds coming from state resources, a third from the county and a third from tuition, said Steven Wantz, executive director of institutional development and the college foundation.

However, he said that more recently the state's contribution has dipped to about 25 percent of the college's funding.

"Students are having to pick up a larger share of the costs," he said. "That's why the major part [of the campaign] is scholarships. ... When people can't afford to come here, that translates into people who could be taking jobs in the community but can't because they aren't qualified or educated to do so."

Wantz said school officials are concerned that higher tuition costs can be frustrating for students, forcing some to scale back their efforts or quit.

"As a community college whose vision is to be open and accessible and affordable, [higher tuition] ... is a major [factor] working against us," he said.

The college - which opened in the mid-1970s as a branch of then-Catonsville Community College and became an independent institution in 1993 - plans to wrap up the campaign by next fall, Wantz said.

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