A regional hub to expand health care education to Frederick, Carroll and Howard community college students has shut down.
The colleges are paying a settlement to vacate the property early.
Frederick Community College will pay $278,000 to break a 10-year lease at the The Mount Airy College Center for Health Care Education at 1902 Back Acre Circle.
Carroll and Howard community colleges also will pay $278,000 apiece.
The total settlement of $834,000 will go to Back Acre Holdings LLC, the property’s landlord.
The colleges announced in late January that it no longer made sense to keep the center running amid declining enrollments there.
“I don’t know specifically why enrollment there was declining,” Dana McDonald, FCC’s vice president for finance and human resources, said in a phone interview. “Overall, it’s something we’ve all been experiencing. It’s no different at the Mount Airy college.”
Initially, leaders envisioned expanding access to health care programs, such as health information technology and medical coding, for all three colleges.
Students would pay the in-county tuition rate for their respective colleges and could could take classes that were only offered on the separate campuses. For instance, a Frederick Community College student would pay in-county tuition for a class originally housed at Carroll Community College.
The 10 programs offered at the school were returned to their respective home campuses as of June 1, according to Carroll Community College’s website.
If FCC students want to take a class that was previously offered at the center and was unique to either the Carroll or Howard college, they now need to travel to that campus, McDonald said.
In an interview, FCC Board of Trustees Chairwoman Myrna Whitworth said that paying a settlement will save FCC considerable money. The payment was less than paying the rent on the building for the coming years, she said.
She said the trustees were disappointed that the center would not continue.
“It was a great idea. It just didn’t work out,” Whitworth said.
The trustees voted unanimously on Saturday to authorize the college to pay the settlement, an agreement that will be signed by FCC President Elizabeth Burmaster, McDonald said.
McDonald declined to provide a copy of the settlement, saying it was still being reviewed by the college’s attorneys. She was unsure when it would be signed.
Howard Community College spokeswoman Elizabeth Homan said the chairwoman of the Howard trustees has approved the agreement. The chairwoman has authority to approve agreements in the summer months, Homan said. It will be officially ratified at an August meeting.
A Carroll Community College spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Though the center opened in 2012, the lease was signed in 2010, according to documents provided by FCC.
The colleges’ initial investment in the center was $3.4 million, which included a roughly $1 million federal grant, McDonald wrote in an email.
They also paid roughly $4 million to renovate the 24,000-square-foot building, The Frederick News-Post has reported. FCC contributed $800,000 to $900,000 to that project.
McDonald did not provide an exact enrollment goal for the center, writing in an email that enrollment did not grow as expected after the center’s inaugural year.
In fiscal year 2014, the center enrolled 1,554 students. That slipped to 1,392 the next fiscal year, McDonald wrote in her email.
“While we do not have the final fiscal year 2016 enrollments, we know that the projections were lower in comparison to last year,” she wrote.
In 2010, when the center was first announced, it was applauded by federal lawmakers, who claimed it would help train workers for a rapidly growing field.
“This is about jobs, jobs, jobs. It’s about giving people the tools they need to keep the jobs they have and it’s about preparing people who need jobs for jobs that are available in Maryland today,” U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski said in a 2010 statement. “With these funds, Frederick, Howard and Carroll Community Colleges will train a new pipeline of workers to fill jobs in health care fields that are needed now and will be needed even more in the future. This is a win-win opportunity to help save lives, transform lives and transform communities.”
All three colleges still maintain a Mid-Maryland Allied Healthcare Education Consortium, formed in 2000. Its goal is to extend health care education to more students.
Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf