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Scholarly aspirations

FROM THE VANTAGE point of 16-year-old Mario Ogans, a city kid's prospects for enrolling at the Johns Hopkins University in recent years have been pretty slim -- so slim that some of the bright and ambitious wouldn't bother to apply. They knew they couldn't afford to go.

"I looked at it as a place where only the best would go, and that's not been that many of us," said Mario, a junior at Baltimore's Forest Park High School who dreams of going to college and being a pre-med and biology major. So for Mario, Hopkins' pledge yesterday to pay the full tuition of Baltimore City public high school graduates admitted to the university beginning in 2005 offers encouragement.

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"I think it will change many young people's ideas on college," Mario said. "It shows that a college wants you ... that maybe going to college is something that you're supposed to do."

In recent years, Johns Hopkins has enrolled, on average, four city students in each undergraduate class; this fall, seven are expected to enroll. Back in the 1960s, when an estimated 60 percent of Hopkins' students were Marylanders, more than half came from city schools, a former admissions director recalls. Much has changed -- not just the city's demographics, but also the university's drive to recruit nationally and internationally as it gained prestige.

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With the Baltimore Scholars program, Hopkins joins a host of private and public four-year colleges -- including Yale, Harvard, the University of Virginia and the University of Maryland, College Park -- that are positioning themselves to better compete for the best and brightest among students least able to pay. Coming after a decade in which tuition rose by more than 42 percent at private colleges, and 47 percent at publics, it's a welcome trend.


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