Baltimore lawmakers push reform plan for city community college

Baltimore lawmakers in the General Assembly are pushing a reform plan for the city community college.

State lawmakers are pushing to reform Baltimore City Community College, which has been beset by declining enrollment and a diminished reputation.

A bill introduced in the General Assembly would create a seven-member reform board that would be charged with adopting new policies and hiring the college's next president.

The seven-member reform board, appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Catherine Pugh, would include members with experience in higher education, finance, workforce development and reorganization, as well as one member from a major employer in the city and two members from the college's current board of trustees.

The reform board would eventually replace the college's board of trustees.

"Our students in Baltimore City are getting the short end of the stick," said Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and is one of the bill's sponsors.

BCCC President Gordon F. May said in a statement that he has reviewed the bill and will testify at hearings on it. He did not say whether he would support the bill.

"The entire college community maintains a steadfast commitment to the educational mission of Baltimore City Community College and our students," May said.

Up to 95 percent of BCCC's entering students need remedial instruction. Many students from Baltimore choose to enroll in the Community College of Baltimore County, where 28 percent of students are city residents.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which accredits BCCC, placed the college on "warn" status in 2014 because it said the school lacked a well-developed strategic plan, published incorrect or outdated information in student materials, and needed a better self-assessment process. The warning was lifted in 2015.

McIntosh said BCCC needs to do a better job working with the city school system and employers in developing plans for its students. The reform bill works toward the goal of making BCCC a "world-class college," she said.

The reform board would be given a long to-do list, including: improving relationships with city government, public schools and major employers; rebuilding the college's brand; developing a new strategic plan for the college; reviewing all faculty and staff positions; and considering selling the college's Inner Harbor site.

The reform board would be required to submit annual progress reports to the governor and the General Assembly.

McIntosh is co-sponsoring the bill with Del. Adrienne Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat. In the Senate, the measure is sponsored by Sens. Joan Carter Conway, Bill Ferguson and Nathaniel McFadden, all Baltimore Democrats. The bills were introduced after a procedural deadline and have not yet been sent to committees for public hearings.

Many of the elements of the bill are drawn from a report last year by the University of Baltimore's Schaefer Center for Public Policy. The bill does not include one of the most controversial recommendations, which was to place BCCC under the umbrella of the University System of Maryland.

BCCC is the only state-run community college in Maryland.

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