November 17, 2008

Bad time to cut funding to community colleges

Historically, during an economic downturn, students turn more than ever to community colleges for workforce training and an affordable alternative to more expensive public and private four-year institutions. Howard Community College is already experiencing significant increases in the number of high school graduates enrolling. Additionally, this fall's full-time equivalent student enrollment increased 6.26 percent over last year - more than double the projected increase of 3 percent.

HCC's recent $499,527 cut in previously approved state funding for this academic year will be a significant burden on a student population that continues to grow at a rapid rate. The cut translates into much-needed faculty and staff positions not being funded, services not being offered to meet students' needs, essential technical equipment not being upgraded, and workforce shortage programs not being supported.

The deteriorating financial situation of many of our students and their families constrains the college in responding to state budget cuts by increasing tuition. Fourteen percent of HCC students come from families in Howard County that have household incomes of less than the federal poverty level of $20,000, and 20 percent come from families in the county with household incomes from $20,000 to $39,000. This year, the college has seen a 17 percent increase in the number of financial aid applications to the college, and one-third of our students receive some form of financial aid.

Now more than ever, it is important to remember that community colleges exist to ensure that all who wish to receive a quality education may have the opportunity to do so at an affordable price.

I have no doubt that state leaders know "doing more with less" merely translates to "doing less with less." Given the significant state cut that has been imposed on Howard Community College, we hope, for the sake of our students, their families and the communities in Maryland they are preparing to serve that deeper cuts will not be made.

T. James Truby, Columbia

The writer is chairman of the Board of Trustees for Howard Community College.

Kudos to Alonso for enrollment mark

Hats off to Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso. For the first time in 39 years, the 3 percent yearly decline in city school population has been halted ("City school enrollment headed up," Nov. 9).

This is good news for all. Young people, regardless of where they live, belong in school.

Now it's up to the parents to make sure students are in school daily.

John A. Micklos, Baltimore

Switching back to SUV is selfish, irresponsible

I was dismayed to see the response to lower gas prices by a customer interviewed in South Baltimore in the article "Buyers find some relief from economy at pump" (Nov. 13).

This person said that he had kept his gas-guzzling Ford Expedition imprisoned in his garage for months because of high gas prices and had been driving his much smaller and more fuel-efficient Volkswagen Passat instead. But now, with much lower prices, he has returned to driving his gargantuan SUV because, as he is quoted, "I like something big."

He also complains of the VW that "it's just so small. It's like being stuck in a box."

This is absurd. As anyone who has driven a Passat or similar vehicle can tell you, this is a comfortable mid-sized car and a small (if any) sacrifice to conserve fuel.

This driver should return to using his more fuel-efficient vehicle, because this type of selfish, indulgent, irrational and irresponsible behavior will cause gas prices to soar once again and add completely unnecessary extra pollution to our environment.

Frank Sass, Timonium

Global economic woes show interdependence

The world economic condition is indeed bad ("Financial picture continues to darken," Nov. 14). However, no one seems to be noticing the bright side of this global recession. Yes, there is one. For the first time in history, countries all over the world are seeing in a painful but highly illuminating way that we are all extremely interdependent. A reality that should have been patently obvious is now blowing up in all our faces.

I'm not counting on it yet, but perhaps it will give future war-mongers pause for reflection.

Norman J. Dean, Fallston

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