Summer Sale Extended! Get unlimited digital access for 13 weeks for $13.
Editorial
News Opinion Editorial

Fixing BCCC

At a time when increasing numbers of Baltimore City high school graduates are choosing to attend community colleges instead of traditional four-year institutions, Gov. Martin O'Malley was right to try to shake up the leadership of the faltering Baltimore City Community College. BCCC desperately needs an infusion of new ideas and leadership if it is to fulfill its mission of preparing students for the academic rigors of a traditional college or university, or of giving them the skills they need to succeed in the work world. The governor's nomination of five new members to BCCC's nine-member board of trustees is a shot in the arm to efforts by faculty and administrators to get the school back on track

Across the country, community colleges have seen a rapid growth in enrollment, often as a result of the financial pressure families are experiencing in this recession. Because they are less expensive than their four-year counterparts, community colleges are an attractive alternative for many students who are either unable to afford tuition at a four-year institution or can't meet the entrance requirements because they need remedial courses to bring their skills up to par.

Community colleges like BCCC can help bridge that gap, but only if their students actually receive the promised benefits. Unfortunately, recent studies have suggested that students at two-year colleges generally are less likely to earn degrees or professional certification than their peers in four-year schools and thus are less likely to be able to take advantage of the opportunities those credentials confer. Because community colleges serve a much more varied student population in terms of age and interests, their graduation rates can't be directly compared with those of traditional four-year schools. Moreover, Baltimore City students are more likely to come from poor families and be less well prepared academically that their suburban counterparts.

But even taking those differences into account, it's clear that BCCC needs to make substantial improvements.

According to the Maryland Commission on Higher Education, fewer than 3 percent of BCCC students graduate with an associate's degree or a certificate qualifying them for a professional career. When the number of students who take enough courses to gain admission to a traditional 4-year institution is added in — a fairer measure of how successful community colleges are in fulfilling their mission — that figure rises to just over 20 percent. But even that is still only about half the success rate of most of Maryland's other public community colleges. At Anne Arundel County Community College, for example, the combined graduation and transfer rate is 42.5 percent; Howard, Frederick and Montgomery counties' community colleges have similar success rates.

Compounding BCCC's problems is the fact that school was recently put on probation by the Middle Atlantic States Commission on Higher Education, which accredits colleges and universities in our region. The commission cited serious concerns about the school's inadequate record-keeping of student academic progress and the lack of a clear plan for using such data to improve learning outcomes. While the school retains its official accreditation, it must submit an acceptable blueprint for fixing these deficiencies by March or face possible further disciplinary action by the accreditation body.

Meanwhile, faculty morale at the school has dropped to abysmally low levels, a state of affairs that appears to be due in part to the toxic relationship that has developed between the college's instructors and the administration. Last November, the faculty senate held a vote of no confidence in school President Carolane G. Williams, who has headed BCCC since 2006. It's hard to imagine the school's students were well served by the enmity revealed during that clash, although the situation appears to have improved somewhat since then.

One of the first tasks the school's new board members are expected to undertake is a thorough audit of the school's programs, instructional strategies, graduation statistics and faculty-administration relations. That should give them the kind of big-picture view they will need to formulate long-term plans for the future and suggest short-term fixes for the school's immediate problems. BCCC has an important role to play in helping Baltimore City youngsters achieve their academic and career goals, but it can only do that if it first establishes a solid instructional and administrative foundation to build on.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • BCCC abuses adjunct faculty

    I applaud the editorial in the September 28 Sun, "Fixing BCCC." I am a nine-year adjunct instructor at Baltimore City Community College and see first-hand the problems there. Adjuncts represent the largest body of employees at the college, numbering about 600 people. We are voiceless, however,...

  • Getting on track for college

    Getting on track for college

    Our view: More city students are graduating from high school, but too many still risk missing out on a college degree

  • Community college has value

    It was with considerable interest that I read your article on Baltimore City students' enrollment in community colleges ("Two-year college enrollment rising in city," Sept. 12).

  • Labor Day: What happened to promised abundance?

    Labor Day: What happened to promised abundance?

    In 1928, famed British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that technology would advance so far in a hundred years -- by 2028 -- that it would replace all work, and no one would need to worry about making money:

  • The Iran nuclear agreement will make America and Israel safer

    The Iran nuclear agreement will make America and Israel safer

    In late July, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Baltimore Jewish Council issued statements urging Congress to oppose the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's Nuclear Program.

  • Lieberman: Obama must reveal side deals on Iran nuclear program

    Lieberman: Obama must reveal side deals on Iran nuclear program

    Members of Congress must know more about secret side arrangements between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran before they vote on the proposed nuclear agreement with Tehran. Why won't the Obama administration reveal the topics that the various side deals touch upon?

  • The poster state for climate change

    The poster state for climate change

    With all due respect to Ohio Republicans and their collective affection for the late William McKinley, whose second term in the White House was cut short 114 years ago by an anarchist's bullets, the most important event of President Barack Obama's trip to Alaska was not the return of Mount Denali...

  • Freddie Gray case: Order in the court

    Freddie Gray case: Order in the court

    For the first several days after Freddie Gray's death in April, thousands of Baltimoreans peacefully took to the streets to protest his treatment by police and to demand broader changes in neighborhoods like the one where he lived. Whatever it was that led to the rioting that followed — outside...

Comments
Loading
72°