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At Kaplan University’s Hagerstown campus, the brick-and-mortar meets the virtual

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HAGERSTOWN, MD. — Turn at Monro Mufflers, and just past the Repeat Performance Thrift Shop sit the two tidy buildings that make up Kaplan University’s Hagerstown campus.

One recent morning here, a few young people were learning how to design DVD covers. Next door, animated students were debating the elements of academic success. Across the hall, a listless bunch of students, none taking notes, listened mutely to a lecture about basic writing skills. In a nearby building, a 23-year veteran of the local police force was pointing a laser gun and yelling at a wall-size image projected by a simulator, an exercise to brush up on how to handle hostage situations or shootouts. And a group of Chinese port officials from Guangxi were using Monopoly money to learn about progressive taxation.

Once known as Hagerstown Business College and founded in 1937, this campus has been part of Kaplan’s archipelago of schools since 2000. It draws people from within a 50-mile radius. It has 853 students, most of them taking three classes per term. The average age is 27.

The school blends classroom and online learning, offering associate and bachelor’s degrees in 27 areas. A third of the students are online only, though they might come to campus to use the library. Many others combine classroom attendance with online learning. Only a quarter rely exclusively on the classroom, says Christopher Motz, president of the campus.

Many students are trying to get back on track. Cheyanne Shearer, 18, became a teenage mother in 10th grade; now she wants an associate degree in criminal justice so she can become a corrections officer in the Hagerstown prison. When the teacher asks, “What makes a master student?,” Shearer reels off a list of virtues.

Motz boasts that the campus placed 95 percent of its graduates in their fields of study. He said some of the criminal justice graduates get positions as “retail loss prevention specialists,” meaning they walk the floors at stores such as Macy’s looking for shoplifters.

Job opportunities are posted on the walls. Fliers on bulletin boards — and taped to the wall over the men’s bathroom urinals — quote former football and baseball player Bo Jackson: “Set your goals high and don’t stop till you get there.”

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