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Education

Takeover Is 'Business As Usual' At Allegany College Of Maryland Somerset Campus

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courtesy Allegany College of Maryland
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Somerset County and Allegany College of Maryland officials are downplaying the county’s pending takeover of operations at ACM’s Somerset campus as little more than a formality.

The county is set to assume responsibility for maintenance and operational expenses at the campus July 1 with the start of the next fiscal year.

The county currently pays the mortgage on the campus’s two buildings, which also house the Somerset County Library and various local, state and federal government offices. Under an agreement with the college, the county will formally assume ownership of the property when the mortgage is paid off.

“In the scheme of things, there will be very little change out there,” Commissioner John Vatavuk said. “We’re paying for it anyway, so that’s not going to change much.”

Campus Director Deborah Hoover echoed Vatavuk, emphasizing that while ACM can no longer afford to meet operational expenses at its Somerset campus, the Cumberland, Md.-based community college system has no plans to pull out of southwestern Pennsylvania.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics show the ACM system had a total enrollment of 3,191 during the 2013-14 academic year.

Students, Hoover said, will not be affected by the change. Vatavuk said neither will county taxpayers.

Under its 2015-16 budget the county plans to employ two maintenance workers, one full-time and one part-time, to take on additional duties. The county’s overall annual allocation of about $240,000 to support the facility will not change.

“We’re kind of hoping that it will be a wash,” Vatavuk said, “that it won’t cost us any more than we’re paying now, total.”

The county will likely balance the books, in part, by reducing its annual contribution to a tuition-assistance fund for Somerset County residents enrolled at ACM.

“That support may change,” Vatavuk said. “[The new expenses] won’t cost the county any more money, but the money may not go toward reducing the tuition.”

County officials have also held informal discussions about the possibility of leasing space to other educational programs and institutions, but Vatavuk said no concrete action has been considered yet. He maintains bringing other organizations into the building would not affect ACM’s status.

“ACM is not pulling out of there. They’re not just going to leave there, so they’re still going to have a campus there, at least for the short term,” Vatavuk said. “I don’t know how long they’ll be able to stay there, or if they’d even want to or not. But in the short term, we haven’t really talked about that yet.”

According to its website, the Allegany College of Maryland has been holding day and evening classes in Somerset since 1994. ACM Somerset offers an associate degree in nursing, as well as career-training and general education course credit for transfer to four-year institutions.