Regents approve Coppin reorganization plan

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Coppin State University's graduation ceremony is held at Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

Members of the state university system's Board of Regents unanimously approved a plan to revitalize Coppin State University at their meeting Friday, setting in motion what is expected to be a comprehensive overhaul of the historically black institution.

The board also heard a report on the system's efforts to close the achievement gap between certain groups on each campus, including white males and black males, low-income and high-income students, and "underrepresented minority students" and the majority. Progress was varied. Some universities narrowed gaps but lost gains made in previous years, while others showed a widening.


Coppin, whose student population is 90 percent black, was in the latter group. The graduation rate at the Baltimore university has been the worst in the state for years, hovering in the mid-teens.

That is among the chief reasons the board assembled a committee to study Coppin after its president stepped down in January. The committee presented a report to the board last month, and university system Chancellor William E. "Brit" Kirwan worked with Coppin's interim president, Mortimer Neufville, and others in the Coppin community to develop the plan presented Friday.


It calls for immediate, short-, mid- and long-term goals to strengthen the school's academic, administrative and financial performance.

In a statement, Neufville said his next step is to "mobilize the same spirit of cooperation and collaboration" used to develop the plan to carry it out and "move Coppin State forward." He stressed through a spokeswoman that he wants every member of the Coppin community — "faculty, staff, students and administrators" — involved in the process.

Board Chairman James L. Shea stressed the importance of remaining engaged in the process in the months ahead, according to a university system spokesman.

The achievement gap report showed the university system to have an overall six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time freshmen graduating in 2012 of 60 percent, down 2 percentage points from four years earlier.

It falls to 47 percent for low-income students and 43 percent for black students. Hispanic students have a slightly higher rate of 62 percent.

The figures vary at individual institutions. Black students at Towson University graduated at a rate of 59 percent last year, higher than the system average but significantly lower than the school's rate of 73 percent in 2009. At Bowie State, a historically black institution, the African-American graduation rate was 35 percent, the lowest since fall 2006.

The university system has a goal of eliminating the achievement gap by 2020.