It's about price, proximity
HCC enrollment continues to rise as students save cash, stay home
HCC Simulation and Digital Entertainment students Josh Merkle, left, and Matthew Hast, right, in the computer lab at HCC's ATC building. (By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer)
A graduate of Washington County Technical High School, Howard said he had planned to join the military rather than attending college after graduation, but found out two weeks before basic training that he didn't clear the medical requirements to enter the service.
So he chose to keep taking classes at HCC.
"HCC is close to home and the prices are really decent compared to other colleges," said Howard, 18, of Smithsburg. He had considered attending Boston College or moving in with his uncle for a year so he could get in-state tuition at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
But both of those options were too expensive and he liked the proximity of HCC, Howard said. Once he figures out what he wants to study, he plans to look into four-year colleges so he can transfer after two years at HCC.
Whether or not they had their eyes set on community college as high school freshman, several Hagerstown Community College students interviewed recently cited affordability, proximity and the atmosphere on campus as reasons they chose the school.
In the past 10 complete fiscal years, the number of students enrolled in HCC credit courses has grown from 3,883 students in fiscal year 2002 to 6,850 students in fiscal year 2011. That's 76 percent growth, according to a compilation of official enrollment reports found on the college's website.
Enrollment in fall courses continued to grow this year. As of Oct. 11, 5,075 students were enrolled in credit programs, compared to 4,886 a year earlier, according to a fall enrollment report.
The increase of 189 students, from fall 2010 to fall 2011, is largely due to the fact there were 233 more part-time students at HCC this fall than a year ago.
On the other hand, the number of full-time students decreased by 44 students.
Anecdotally, HCC spokeswoman Beth Stull said she's heard of several part-time students who have jobs who are taking courses at HCC because they want to train for better careers.
Essence students also are considered part-time students, Stull said.
Through the Essence program, which began on a pilot basis in 2002, high school students are enrolled at their high schools and at HCC and earn credits at both.
The number of students enrolled in the Essence program increased by 71, from 455 students to 526. That includes high school students from outside Washington County and Maryland, Stull said.
Amanda Jenkins and Joseph Garrish both started at HCC through the Essence program as home-schooled students, they said.
It's easier to get into HCC and then plan to transfer to a four-year college than to try to get into a four-year college right after high school, in part because students don't have to deal with SAT or ACT tests to be admitted to HCC, Jenkins said.
While college entrance exam scores can be a factor in being admitted to a four-year college, those colleges also will be interested in her HCC transcript when she applies for transfer, she said.
HCC Recruitment Coordinator Kevin Crawford said HCC doesn't require SAT or ACT scores for admittance, but placement exams are given to incoming HCC students to make sure they get in the proper classes.
Students with high SAT or ACT scores could be exempt from taking placement tests, he said.