Regardless of its identity crisis, this city's two-year community college seems to be doing something right. It is the fastest-growing college or university in Maryland. Morale is rising. Program offerings are proving more appealing.
Not bad for an institution that has gone through a confusing array of names. First, it was Baltimore Junior College (BJC). Then it became the Community College of Baltimore (CCB). When the state assumed control in 1990, the two-campus institution turned into the New Community College of Baltimore (NCCB). Now the General Assembly has made the school a permanent state-funded facility -- Baltimore City Community College (BCCC).
It's been a rocky road. Founded in 1947 with just 53 students, the two-year college grew in popularity. In 1979, it claimed enrollment of 8,278 students. But by the time the state stepped in, a severe decline in quality had translated into a 50-percent enrollment drop. It ranked as the weakest community college in the state by every assessment measure available to Maryland officials.
Under state control, though, the situation has been reversed in dramatic fashion. Enrollment is now back up to 6,046, thanks to a 17 percent increase this spring, on top of a 10 percent rise last fall. Seven underperforming programs have been axed and six popular programs enhanced. The school's new focus is on health professions and business-related fields. Four new computer labs offer interactive instruction for the school's many students in need of remedial education.
Much of the credit goes to interim President James D. Tschechtelin and board chair Marion Pines, who had the courage to get rid of 33 administrators and teachers, revamp the curriculum, reestablish links to the city's business community and campaign successfully for extra state funds to upgrade buildings and instructional equipment. It is an illustration of what skilled leadership and a thoughtful game plan can accomplish.
If BCCC continues to advance as quickly as it has the past two years, the college could become the foundation for a metropolitan-wide community-college consortium capable of giving this area's students the job skills and education so necessary for success in the business world. Here's one state rescue effort that has worked out beautifully -- and has produced solid results for citizens of both the city and the state.