Friday, April 18 – Wor-Wic Pulling Out Of Berlin

BERLIN – Wor-Wic Community College’s gradual withdrawal of classes sited in Worcester County continued this week with the decision to give up the Berlin-Ocean City Instructional Center, but got a boost at the same time with the donation of a golf course on Cathell Rd. that the college intends to use for some instructional programs.

The Berlin-Ocean City Instructional Center will close on June 30 to save on rental costs. The decision by the Wor-Wic Board of Trustees was made in reaction to news of $250,000 in state funding cuts.

“Wor-Wic has had a dedicated facility in Worcester County since 1977, and we have been at the present location for all but the first four years,” said Wor-Wic Community College President Ray Hoy. “We regret having to close this facility, but this action will enable us to save about $100,000 a year.”

With the removal of the hotel-motel-restaurant management program to the main campus west of Salisbury in Wicomico County in fall 2007, enrollment in credit courses at the Berlin-Ocean City Instructional Center fell off, according to Hoy. Non-credit classes are popular, but do not pay to keep the center open.

“We intend to continue offering classes in the community at various locations. Hopefully, we will be able to find low-cost locations convenient to Worcester residents all across the county,” said Hoy.

Despite the fact closing the Berlin satellite campus takes the “Wor” out of Wor-Wic at least geographically, the news will not diminish the County Commissioners’ commitment to the institution. Worcester’s contribution to the school was around $1.6 million last year and is penciled in at around $1.8 million in the current budget.

County Commission President Virgil Shockley said on Wednesday the decision would not likely influence the level of financial support for Wor-Wic at budget time.

“It is a business,” he said. “Unfortunately, as much as you’d like to see things stay the same, this comes down to the economics of keeping it open. With the capabilities and the facilities they have now, economically it makes more sense.”

Shockley said the college, like everyone else, is faced with tough budget decisions right now and the move to close the Berlin satellite campus made sense financially.

“We’re going to be in a situation at budget time where we have to make every dollar stretch,” he said. “We can’t criticize them for doing that because we’re doing the same thing.”

Despite the closure of the Berlin campus, Wor-Wic will likely continue to use classroom space at Stephen Decatur High School for some programs. On top of that, Wor-Wic students from Worcester County make up a large percentage of the student body. “We still have a large number of students from this county there,” Shockley said. “Percentage-wise, I think it’s around 30 percent.”

As one location closes, a different one is opening up, with the donation of the $3.3 million, 18-hole Ocean Resorts golf course to the college, the largest gift the school has ever received.

The college will operate the golf course through a local liability company it has formed and is looking into ways to use the golf course academically. A new program in turf management could be implemented at the golf course, pesticide application students could use the golf course to gain experience, and business and hotel-motel-restaurant students could undertake internships there.

“Turf management has been in our academic master plan since 2001. This unexpected, most generous gift is the perfect opportunity for us to begin exploring the feasibility of adding this degree. But right now, we want to get the golf course open for business so that we can preserve the value of this gift. That’s our No. 1 priority at this time,” Hoy said.