After nearly a decade, Towson University and Harford Community College can finally say they did it. Their “2+2” program, which enables HCC graduates to receive bachelor’s degrees from TU without ever leaving Harford County, is finally up and running.
Officials from both schools said although there were plenty of hurdles to clear before launching the program — which was first envisioned in 2006 — they think the effort will be worthwhile because the potential benefits to students and the region are so significant.
The primary driver behind the partnership is that Harford County is “the only region in the state that doesn’t have a four-year institution in close proximity,” said Dennis Golladay, president of Harford Community College.
“So it made sense for a four-year institution to work out an arrangement with a community college to offer the last two years of baccalaureate degree courses closer to [students’] home,” Golladay said.
The program wouldn’t be possible without Towson University’s new, $28 million academic and social services facility. But the building is nowhere to be found on Towson’s Baltimore County campus.
Instead, it’s in Bel Air, on the HCC campus. The 60,000-square-foot facility is not technically a second campus for Towson, but it functions like one.
The building’s official name is Towson University in Northeastern Maryland, and it will serve hundreds of students who earn an associate degree from HCC and then transfer to Towson to earn a bachelor’s.
Towson has long had a large population of transfer students. The difference, though, is that these students won’t have to travel to Baltimore County; they’ll learn from TU faculty in the university’s new building on HCC’s campus.
That’s how the “2+2” program gets its name: students do two years as a Harford Community College student before crossing the street to do two years as a Towson student in the same place.
That’s a unique concept, which is why it took years to come to fruition, several people said.
“It is a big challenge and a big risk for Towson to take this on, but from the very beginning we were very committed to reaching out to this part of the state,” said John Desmone, executive director of Towson University in Northeast Maryland.
“It’s something the region really needed — for students to be able to earn a bachelor’s degree in their own backyard,” Desmone continued. “It’s something very different and very new for Maryland.”
The partnership between Towson and HCC may not be the last such agreement in a state that’s heavy with higher-education institutions. Several people said they hope the partnership will serve as a model to other schools in Maryland or nationwide.
“Any time Towson has an opportunity to lead the national discussion on how higher education needs to change, we want to do that,” said Maravene Loeschke, who is on a leave of absence, due to illness, from her position as president of Towson University.
“We like to be thought-leaders. We like to share ideas that can be beneficial to others, because, not to be cocky, but the entire country needs this kind of innovation.”
But even if other institutions would like to replicate the program, several people said a major potential roadblock is cost.
HCC leased the land to Towson, which paid for the building without using state capital funds, Desmone said. Towson also contracts with HCC for services like dining, janitorial and maintenance, said Golladay, Harford’s president.
For now, the program only extends to students in six academic majors: business administration with a management concentration; elementary/special education; early childhood/special education; information technology; psychology; and sociology with a criminal justice concentration.
There are now about 240 Towson students, mostly juniors, taking those programs at the Harford building, which includes a library, café and bookstore in addition to classrooms and science labs.
Next fall, students studying family science will also be allowed into the program. Officials predict the number of Towson students taking classes at Harford will double next year.
Students getting associate degrees from Cecil College are also allowed to take classes in the new building as Towson transfer students.