Friday, Sept. 7, 2007

Brown: Greater commitment should be made to state’s community colleges

Lieutenant governor makes stop at Montgomery College’s Rockville campus

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Montgomery College officials are confident Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown got the message they were trying to impart during his visit this week: They need more buildings and better sidewalks on the Rockville campus.

‘‘He also, I think, got a sense that we really need to do something about the state budgets of community colleges,” Vice President and Provost Judy E. Ackerman said.

‘‘Across the state, community colleges have facility needs,” she said. ‘‘They are old facilities and we need new ones so we don’t have to turn students away.”

Brown (D) said he would like to see the state make a greater commitment to capital investments at community colleges across the state.

‘‘The level of capital investment right now, running around $60 million a year across the state, is woefully inadequate to develop the capacity or support the capacity of the increasing needs and demands of community colleges,” he said.

Wednesday’s visit — his first official tour of the Rockville campus — coincided with the first day of classes for the semester.

‘‘I’m very impressed by what I see: a very dedicated faculty and staff, and students committed to advancing their education and expanding their horizons,” Brown said.

Brown was at the campus for a Workforce Investment Board meeting and later took a tour with college President Brian K. Johnson, Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville, Ackerman and other college officials.

‘‘I thought it was a great opportunity for us, and I thought the lieutenant governor was especially grateful in his remarks about the impact that Montgomery College is making on this community,” Johnson said. ‘‘I was impressed with his awareness of some of our success stories and his ability to talk in such a familiar manner about some of the things we’ve done well was impressive.”

The quick tour was among several stops in Montgomery County for the lieutenant governor. He also spoke at a breakfast in Silver Spring sponsored by MD⁄DC Minority Supplier Development Council and at the grand opening of a new Honest Tea location in Bethesda.

As Ackerman led him through the campus, Brown asked her about the college, such as the demographics of the student population and what sports programs are available.

Ackerman stressed the overcrowding at the campus, telling him that as of Aug. 30, biology, chemistry, English and math classes became so full that more than 500 students had to be turned away. And since then, the numbers have gone up.

College officials led Brown through the Science East and West buildings, which house the science, math and engineering departments.

The college has plans to build a new science center on campus to house laboratories and faculty offices. There are also plans to renovate the Science East and West buildings for classroom use.

State aid for the project for fiscal 2008 did not come through, but college officials hope the funding will come through next year.

Johnson said the project was put at the top of the priority list during a meeting last month of community college presidents in Ocean City, which Brown attended.

Brown said Montgomery College was among many community colleges he has visited across the state.

The tour included a stop at a physics class in the science building where Brown observed a lesson on oscillation and briefly spoke to the students.

‘‘Most of you, perhaps all of you, have paid tuition that’s one-third of the cost of your education,” he told the students. ‘‘Montgomery County pays the other third of the cost and the state of Maryland paid the other one-third. That’s about what it takes to deliver this education.

‘‘So let me ask you a favor: When you graduate Montgomery College or you finish your studies here, please consider staying in Montgomery County and⁄or the state of Maryland so we can get a return on our investment,” he said.