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by Ronald Williams
(President, PGCC)

In response to demographic projections, higher education institutions are reevaluating their ability to accommodate what could be an overwhelming demand for higher education in coming years. The University System of Maryland (USM) and the Maryland Association of Community Colleges (MACC), in cooperation with the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), recently released a report on the ability of higher education to meet enrollment growth and workforce demands in Maryland.

Although we have not yet seen large surges in enrollment, enrollment for Prince George’s Community College is projected to increase by 21-27 percent by 2010, according to the USM/MACC study. Factors that have an impact on growth include rising numbers of high school graduates, greater investment in K-12 education, and growing recognition that a college education is essential to career advancement. Maryland currently ranks fourth in the nation in its rate of growth of 18-24 year-olds through 2015. Among the substantial resource challenges identified by the report are the shortage of physical space, particularly lab space, and the ongoing need to repair and upgrade technology. Prince George’s Community College has already begun working to meet some of these challenges on our own campus.

Our Largo campus is more than thirty years old and in need of significant reconditioning. We are undertaking construction and renovation projects to modernize the campus and install new technology. Governor Robert Ehrlich’s capital budget for Fiscal Year 2005 requests more than $16 million in appropriations to support capital improvements at Prince George’s Community College. Central to this effort is the construction of a new technology building to provide an additional 48,000 net square feet for technology programs. The new building will incorporate instructional and laboratory space for technology courses, and business and industry training.

The governor’s request also covers renovations to Accokeek Hall and the Bladen Hall Student Services Wing, as well as upgrades to campus water and energy systems. Accokeek Hall refurbishments will accommodate technological innovations in the field of library science, replace worn systems, and eventually replace the third floor computer lab with a Technology Resources Center and a Center for Faculty Development. Changes to the Bladen Hall Student Services Wing will include the reconfiguration of offices for easier student access and the addition of more than 14,500 square feet of new space.

To help meet enrollment demand, the USM/MACC workgroup recommends maximizing the use of regional centers and encouraging new models that allow institutions to share physical capacity. We are already doing both. Last year, we doubled the size of our degree-granting location in Hyattsville, adding new biology and health labs and a learning center for students. Laurel College Center, which we operate with Howard Community College, is also providing much-needed support. Enrollments at Laurel College Center increased more than fourfold, from 136 in FY 2002 to 726 in FY 2003.

Capacity and infrastructure issues are, of course, inextricably linked to funding, and this will continue to be one of the challenges with which we must contend. Prince George’s Community College actively advocates for increased state and local funding to support our mission. We also make every effort, with limited resources, to be creative in delivering our services to the community. The long-term vision of the college is one that incorporates physical expansion as well as the expansion of services to students and the community. Some of the improvements to our campus are long overdue. We do not want to be in a position of simply playing catch up or reacting to changes in technology as they occur. We can and should be innovative and proactive. We must anticipate what our future needs will be and begin now to devise ways to meet them.

We often talk about our students’ need for academic preparation. We, too, must be prepared. Bricks and mortar, adequate staffing, current technology, sufficient classroom and laboratory space—all these contribute to the foundation that makes learning possible. It is our responsibility to create an environment that allows for the greatest possibility of success, whatever the numbers.


The Instructional Area Newsletter, Volume 19, No. 3

Spring 2004