- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The College of Southern Maryland announced last week the hiring of a new dean at its Leonardtown campus at a time when a lot of people are already buying what CSM is selling.
Enrollment earlier this month at the campus in La Plata hit about 3,500. Add in the students enrolled at the campuses in St. Mary’s and Calvert counties and at the Waldorf Center for Higher Education and that’s about 9,000 students taking classes at the two-year community college.
What is it that CSM is selling? A lot of things: entree to higher education, job skills, professional certification, recreational and enrichment programs.
And who is buying? Just about everyone of every age and background. Count in the summer “Kids College” program CSM offers at La Plata, Leonardtown and Prince Frederick and elsewhere, and those enrolled start at age 5.
As for its academic classes, the students at CSM include those who are simultaneously working on earning their high school diplomas and beginning their college careers. Some of their classmates might be people old enough to be their parents, or even their grandparents. The youngest graduate from CSM last spring was 15. The oldest graduate earning an associate degree was 58.
So what’s the attraction? That depends on the student, but flexibility and affordability are high on the list.
CSM raised its tuition rates by 3.7 percent for the fall semester, which began last week. Add in student fees and that comes to $136.53 per credit. But for a full-time student out to earn an associate degree in two years that comes to less than $4,000 a year.
Now $4,000 is a significant investment. But tuition and fees would be double or triple that at most four-year colleges, and then there are room and board charges.
In addition to saving a ton of money, some of the CSM students just out of high school might not be ready to move away from home, and some might need to buckle down to academic work before they can attend a four-year college.
Many of the students have their eyes on a bachelor’s degree but are going to spend the first two years at CSM before transferring to a four-year school. Nearly 700 students did that last year. Anyone who completes a degree at CSM is guaranteed admission to a public four-year college in Maryland, as long as space is available. Other students at the campuses are going to college part time while working full-time jobs.
CSM’s new dean in Leonardtown, Tracy A. Harris, will oversee day-to-day operations at that campus, and be the point man there for the college’s mission and goals the “one college concept” to ensure that all CSM students can access the entire far-flung college’s services seamlessly, while tailoring the programs offered at each campus to the needs and career possibilities in each community. Education is the key to a successful working life in a fast-changing world, and that’s at the heart of what the College of Southern Maryland is selling.