Bump in enrollment makes things tight at AACC

August 29, 2010|By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

Enrollment at Anne Arundel Community College has increased 5 percent for the fall semester. And with more students on campus, there are more traffic and parking headaches as well as a premium on class space.

Students have flooded community colleges during the nation's economic downturn, looking for bargain-rate classes to burnish their resumes.

In addition to adding more online courses to deal with the influx, AACC has begun offering classes in the middle of the night. Still, the college turns away more than 200 qualified students to its nursing trainee program each year, though the school has worked to more efficiently manage professors' schedules to accommodate more students.

When school began last Monday, campus security had to close an entrance to the Arnold campus and direct vehicles to overflow parking lots to manage the influx. While student enrollment at the two-year school has increased, the public transportation options for students have dwindled. Annapolis recently eliminated the C-40 bus, which served the college.

"We were down to, like, five empty parking spots on Tuesday," said Linda Schulte, a spokeswoman for the college. "We're a stellar school. We have limited capacity with equipment, with laboratory space. We try and be creative in how we address these things. Not unlike everyone else, we're having to do more with less and less. It's no small tribute to our leadership."

To deal with dwindling space and principally to meet its mission of reaching a broad group of students, the professors get out in the community, said Faith Harland-White, dean of the school of continuing and professional studies.

"We take our training courses to so many locations," she said. "We go to churches, public schools, the MTA. We're at the mall. We once had ESL classes in a laundromat. We'll meet the community's needs." College President Martha A. Smith "is adamant that we're the community's college and we take the show on the road."

The college began a late-night class this semester, serving an introductory psychology course from midnight to 3 a.m. Thursdays, hoping to better accommodate students' schedules. Ten students have signed up, Schulte said.

The school's Cyber Center has exploded in popularity recently. Enrollment has increased by 300 percent since the program began seven years ago. With the planned Cyber Command bringing an estimated 20,000 jobs to Fort Meade in the next decade, the school has responded to a surge in interest, offering courses on "Ethical Hacking" and "The Use of Malware."

"Malware wasn't even around a few years ago," said Schulte.

The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security have designated the center a national center of excellence. The center offers an associate's degree and a certificate program, and also allows students to take individual courses.

Meanwhile, to deal with the extra people on campus, the school is urging students to carpool. Of the 4,531 parking spots on campus, 3,845 are designated for students.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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