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Anthony Jenkins, who increased retention rates and expanded the research portfolio of a small university in West Virginia, was named president of Coppin State University Monday.

A first-generation college student who went on to get his doctorate at Virginia Tech University, Jenkins is currently the president of West Virginia State University, a historically black land-grant university near Charleston with 3,600 students. He will take over Coppin State at the end of May, succeeding Maria Thompson who left in June.

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The University System of Maryland Board of Regents made the appointment after a selection committee chose the finalists.

“My path is like many of the young women and men who attend Coppin,” said Jenkins, adding that his vision aligns with that of the West Baltimore institution.

Coppin’s culture of nurturing and supporting students, he said, has given many city residents who might have been shut out of access to college a chance to earn a degree.

Jenkins, 48, graduated from Fayetteville State University. He received a masters from North Carolina Central University. He was an administrator at UNC-Wilmington, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and the University of Central Florida.

He comes to the city with his wife and two teenage daughters, he said, because there is a “possibility to expand access and opportunity for so many of the young people in Baltimore .... so many opportunities there to change lives and I am excited about that."

Linda Gooden, chair of the university system regents, said in a statement that Jenkins has “demonstrated a clear track record of success on the West Virginia State campus — especially impressive are the global partnerships he has established with higher education institutions in areas such as Africa, Mexico, and the People’s Republic of China. The USM board is delighted to have such an accomplished leader to guide Coppin.

As president of West Virginia State, Jenkins increased the enrollment and developed a nursing and engineering program. He also is credited with completing a $10 million renovation to the university.

Richard Ford, an associate professor of biology at West Virginia State and chair of the school’s faculty senate, called Jenkins’ record there mixed.

Jenkins is pleasant and likable, Ford said. He was successful at getting some new academic programs started and successfully lobbied the state to obtain more funding.

But while West Virginia State’s total enrollment has risen, Ford said, a growing number of the university’s students are high schoolers taking classes for college credit rather than full-time college students. As the number of college-aged students has dropped, Ford said, so has funding.

Anthony Jenkins is the next president of Coppin State University
Anthony Jenkins is the next president of Coppin State University (Courtesy Coppin State University)

“The frustration has mounted as the situation has gotten more desperate,” he said. “He is a very personable man. He is very charming. As the charm wears off, it doesn’t always match up to the hype."

Jenkins comes to Coppin at a time of uncertainty for the historically black college in West Baltimore.

The legislature is expected to examine a proposal to create a Baltimore City university system, pooling three of the city’s public higher education institutions: Coppin, the University of Baltimore and the Baltimore City Community College. UB President Kurt Schmoke has floated the idea, which he believes would provide more opportunities for students and cut down on administrative costs. But the concept has been criticized by Coppin alumni who worried, among other issues, whether a qualified applicant would want to take over a university that could find itself less independent.

Jenkins also will be confronted with some of Coppin’s long-term issues, including a 64% retention rate and a 25% graduation rate, one of the lowest among Maryland’s four-year institutions. Many of its 2,900 students are low-income and need remedial classes before they can take courses for credit, and about 40% are older than 25.

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