Howard Community College, Pa. School Form Partnership

April 15, 2009|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,

A select group of students at Howard Community College will be guaranteed admission and a scholarship to Dickinson College, a highly regarded liberal arts school in Pennsylvania, to earn their bachelor's degrees under a partnership to be announced by the colleges Wednesday.

The deal represents a significant step beyond the standard transfer agreements that community colleges have with state universities. The HCC-Dickinson partnership will provide support and coaching so that students are academically ready, as well as financial aid so they can afford it.

With the total annual costs at some private universities now exceeding $50,000, more families are looking to community colleges as affordable alternatives. Dickinson President William G. Durden called the partnership a creative way to address the soaring costs of college.

"I think the fundamental financial model for American higher education is broken, and therefore we need to look for alternative ways of providing an education that is appropriate and optimal but that uses our resources in slightly different ways," Durden said. "So here you have the opportunity to cut in half the price of a liberal arts education."

Dickinson will provide each transfer student a $15,000 annual scholarship and has pledged to meet financial need beyond that. The college's total cost for next academic year, including tuition, room and board, is $50,194.

The Carlisle, Pa., school is entering into the same agreement with Montgomery College and two community colleges in Pennsylvania. Within several years, Durden hopes to have up to 15 participants.

Dickinson will send staff members to the participating community colleges to help identify students and make sure they are taking the right courses so that credits will transfer. The support will continue once they get to Dickinson, whose entering freshmen on average have scored a total of 1,298 on the math and verbal SATs.

Only a handful of students from each college - about five or six - will be selected. To be eligible to transfer, they will need a cumulative 3.25 GPA over their two years of community college. They will enter Dickinson as a group, to help them adjust, with the first group starting in the fall of 2010.

Already, the vast majority of Howard students transfer to a four-year college or university. The three most popular choices are the University of Maryland, College Park; Towson University; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. But those schools are not for everyone, said Ron Roberson, vice president for academic affairs at Howard Community College.

"Dickinson is distinctly different from those other three schools in that it is a small liberal arts college as opposed to a large state university," Roberson said. "The fact that it's small and liberal arts means the students will have a very different experience, and some students would prefer that."

One of them is Jaimie Wilder, 17, a freshman at HCC who grew up in Laurel and was home-schooled. She was one of several HCC students to visit Dickinson recently and is excited about the opportunities she saw there.

"I'm so excited - it's so cool," she said. She said the small class sizes and attention paid to each student appeal to her.

One expert said the partnership was rare, and encouraging. "It's positive all around," said George R. Boggs, president of the American Association of Community Colleges. "It's great to see a university or four-year liberal arts school reaching out and giving those kids a chance and bringing them into their institution."

He said he knew of nothing similar administered by any other four-year college but hopes others will follow the model.

The arrangement holds advantages for Dickinson, which is looking to become more diverse in terms of race and socioeconomic status. "An American objective is to increase college-going students," said Durden, the Dickinson president, who will be present during the announcement in Columbia.

About half of college freshmen in Maryland are enrolled in community colleges, which are taking on an increasing role in educating students both young and old. Harford Community College is providing land adjacent to its campus for Towson University to establish a satellite campus, so that students can complete their four-year degree in Bel Air.

Howard Community College President Kathleen B. Hetherington said the Dickinson agreement will make HCC even more attractive to Howard County families. Students have been choosing the college for its affordability and quality education, including its honors programs, she said. Enrollment is up 11 percent this semester.

Referring to Dickinson, she said, "Not only is it an outstanding institution, but this financial incentive that they're giving students is quite appealing and really quite unique."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.