This story was updated at 3:05 p.m. on April 28, 2021, with more information from Montgomery College.
Montgomery College is exploring having an “education center” in the eastern portion of the county, with the possibility of a fourth full-scale campus within the next decade.
In 2019, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich asked the college to consider an “eastern county presence,” and, after an “exploratory process” college leaders agreed to the idea last week, spokesman Marcus Rosano said.
The college began a feasibility study in October to determine where and in what capacity the “presence” would operate. The study is ongoing, but last week, the college’s Board of Trustees voted to allow President DeRionne Pollard to “take the steps necessary to open” a small-scale educational center in the east county, though doing so is contingent upon funding from the county government. A timeline for the project was not available on Wednesday.
Asked about the project on Wednesday, Elrich said he will “work to build it into the coming budget.”
The center, if it comes to fruition, would be similar to others in Wheaton and Gaithersburg that offer non-credit courses, workforce development and certification programs and courses for English language learners. It’s possible credit courses could be offered, but doing so would require the center to be accredited.
The hope, Rosano said, is to find an existing facility, like vacant office space, to house the center in the short-term.
The next step is to find a site, plan for programs and services, and develop a budget for the center, Pollard said in a recent video message to students.
The “east county” as defined by Montgomery College includes the Burtonsville, Olney, Sandy Spring, White Oak, Colesville and Kemp Mill areas.
Long-term, the college is considering expanding the center into a full-fledged fourth campus to join the Germantown, Takoma Park/Silver Spring and Rockville campuses. But doing so could take up to 10 years because of various approvals needed from local and state agencies, construction and accreditation, Rosano said.
But a campus in the east county area would make sense, Rosano said, because the existing campuses create “an almost-straight line through the middle of the county.”
While the current campuses are convenient for many, traffic congestion and public transportation routes make them difficult to access for some students.
“To serve the community, we need to be where the community is,” Rosano said. “… Having a presence in the east county brings the college and college services directly to these communities, essentially delivering a Montgomery College education to more people who may not have even considered ‘college’ an option.”
Elrich agreed, adding that “we’ve got this huge corridor on the east side of the county with no presence.”
“I thought it was important to provide the same educational opportunities in that part of the county as we are in other parts of the county,” Elrich said. “This is good news for the east county, which I think has long been neglected in terms of the services we provide over there.”
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org