Cumberland Times-News

December 21, 2013

Allegany College officials meet with state legislators

Emphasis on funding for student programs, but capital improvements also among priorities

greg larry
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Officials from Allegany College of Maryland met with members of the District 1 legislative delegation Friday to add details to the list of educational priorities that college officials hope can be advanced during the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly.

ACM is one of 16 community colleges that are represented by the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.

The financial and legislative desires of ACM are merged into a larger package that is presented to the lawmakers by MACC. MACC has eight topics listed as their legislative priorities. All but one of the topics are requests to turn the tide of cuts in funding the community colleges have endured during the financial downturn of the last few years.

“All community colleges across the state have been affected by the economic challenges,” said Cynthia Bambara, president of ACM.

Delegation members present for the update from ACM officials were Sen. George Edwards and delegates Wendel Beitzel and Kevin Kelly.

The formula the state uses to fund community colleges, known as the Cade funding formula, has been altered to reduce funding five times since 2008, according to handouts distributed at the meeting.

Most state funding packages are tied to the number of students attending.

“We hope to see enrollment climb as the economy starts to recover,” said Bambara.

MACC would like an increase of approximately $24 million in appropriations for its colleges in fiscal year 2015. By 2019, MACC would like statewide funding to restored to full statutory levels by 2019.

MACC would also like to see funding increased for other statewide programs such as the Health Manpower Shortage Grant, the Part-Time Grant, State’s Educational Assistance Grant and the Disabled Student Grant, which helps colleges offset the growing costs of serving students with special needs.

The only legislative topic on MACC’s list that was not related to funding for student programs was the capital improvements projects.

MACC is seeking state funding for 18 capital projects at 11 community colleges for a total of $79.4 million. However, ACM did not have a project on this year’s capital improvements list.

ACM officials are intending to submit a capital improvements project to be add to the following year’s legislative priorities list. Officials wants funding for a $20 million renovation of the campus Technology Building to be included on the 2015 list of capital improvements.

“ACM has a large impact of the economy of our region,” said Kim Leonard, chair of the ACM’s Board of Trustees.

Leonard said that ACM employes 190 people. Adjusted for taxes and other withdrawals, according to handout material, ACM contributes $20.5 million to the local economy in the way of wages to employees and operating and capital expenses.

Factoring in other ACM activities and the financial impact of former students, the school’s annual contribution to the local economy is around $127.2 million.

ACM officials also disclosed they are exploring two new areas of study for the college, with the hopes they will lead to new class offerings.

Officials have applied for a $93,000 grant with the Appalachian Regional Commission to create a training program in advanced manufacturing.

“With Hunter Douglas, American Woodmark, Na-tional Jet and others in the area, this program could help meet some of their needs,” said David Jones, director of grants and development.

The manufacturing program would include metal fabrication, lathe operation, welding, geometric dimensioning and manual mill operation.

ACM officials have also applied for a $25,000 planning grant under the states Earn and Learn Iniative. With the help of Jonathan Hutcherson, founder and president of the local web solutions company — Exclamation Labs!, the EARN grant will help to explore the information technology needs of area businesses.

“We are hopeful that we will receive the funding. We are excited about the opportunities they can provide,” said Jones.

Decisions on funding for both the ARC and EARN grants are expected sometime in January.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.