United States Senator Ben Cardin believes Towson University in Northeastern Maryland could be a nationwide model for other institutions looking to make four-year degrees more affordable and accessible.
“We’ve got to find ways to do this in a better manner,” Cardin said during a visit to the Bel Air campus Monday. “That’s why I’m so excited about this program. I think this is exactly what we need.”
TU in Northeastern Maryland’s fees are about half those at the main campus, saving an undergraduate about $600 per term. Students also save on gas, housing and other expenses because they can live at home and spend less time and money commuting.
In its first year, TU in Northeastern Maryland offers six programs in what is called a 2+2 approach: students earn their associate degrees from a community college like Harford Community College or Cecil College, and then transfer to Towson University to complete it without having to live on campus or commute 40 minutes or more each way.
“And it’s beyond just the students who are going to benefit from it,” the senator predicted. “I talked to the county executive (Barry Glassman) last night, and he sees this as a real economic engine for the county. He really sees this as an incredible opportunity to expand private sector jobs here.”
The workforce is a focus for those who built the concept and now the reality of TU in Northeastern Maryland. The bachelor’s degree programs in integrated early/special education and elementary/special education; business administration; psychology; information technology; and sociology/criminal justice were selected because of their potential for the area. In the fall, the Bel Air campus will add a Family & Human Services major. Administrators hope to soon open a nursing program as well.
According to Interim Provost S. Maggie Reitz, the choices are helped by Harford County Public Schools’ Pathways Program, which predicts which areas students will want to study by the time they are ready for college.
“We’re very interested in students’ desires and interests, plus also meeting the workforce needs of the region here,” Reitz told the senator.
TU in Northeastern Maryland junior Brittany Martin shared with Cardin that she plans on finishing her bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology and going on to earn her Ph.D. She wants to work with persons who have serious mental illness. Senior John Hryncewich, 33, said he is changing careers and plans to go on to graduate school. Both students live just minutes from the Bel Air campus, but Martin says she does take advantage of the privileges she has as a Towson student to go do something fun on the Baltimore County campus occasionally.
“I know the drive in certain areas in certain time periods isn’t great, but it’s worth it,” she told Cardin about attending a recent event.
As of this past fall, TU in Northeastern Maryland had enrolled nearly 300 students, full- and part-time. Most of them come from Harford Community College, right across the street. But the opportunity is open to anyone with an associate degree who wants to earn a bachelor’s degree from Towson University.
“This is truly great, what Towson is doing,” said Cardin. “ This is really visionary. I know you do it because you have a mission, and you see how you can carry out that mission, but it’s really inspirational to see the lives that you’re affecting.”