- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 29, 2004

Anson Knausenberger, 19, expected that he would follow his three older siblings to the University of Maryland, College Park, when he applied last year to college.

He soon got a shock — the admissions office turned down the Bowie student. He reluctantly decided to enroll at nearby Prince George’s Community College. “I really didn’t have many high expectations at all,” said Mr. Knausenberger, now entering his second and final year at PGCC.

But he has tried hard to get everything he can out of the community college, joining a host of clubs, enrolling in the school’s honors program and taking overseas trips as an international studies major. In some ways, he said, it has been better to be a standout at a small school than just another face at the University of Maryland’s massive flagship campus.

Several of Maryland’s four-year schools have raised admissions standards and increased tuition at a dizzying rate to make up for budget shortfalls. At the same time, record numbers of students are graduating from high school.

That means many students who normally would attend universities are looking to community colleges as either a springboard into a four-year school or a cheaper way to get a degree. Maryland’s community colleges project a boom in students ages 18 to 24 in the next 10 years.

“If a student has their heart set on College Park and gets in, many will go to community college for two years,” said Michael J. Keller, director of policy analysis and research at the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC).

Maryland’s 16 community colleges enrolled about 117,500 students as of last fall, more than the 91,500 undergraduates who attended the 13 public institutions making up the University System of Maryland.

The number of full-time students at community colleges is expected to grow faster than their four-year counterparts in the next 10 years. MHEC predicts that full-time enrollment at community colleges will grow 30 percent, while the four-year campuses will see a 15 percent increase.

Community colleges are scrambling to handle the growth, even as their funding from the state and counties slips. Many operate seven days a week, holding classes from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to accommodate the crush of students. The use of online courses is booming.

Some are beefing up intercollegiate athletics for younger students looking for more traditional college experiences. Allegany College of Maryland has opened dormitories partly to satisfy those looking for the amenities of a four-year school.

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