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Baltimore International College’s future in jeopardy

Nervous and, in some cases, angry students of Baltimore International College will have to wait until Thursday to see if their school will be closed in the wake of its losing a vital accreditation.

The school was also criticized for how it has handled keeping students apprised of what was happening.

“I haven’t been the happiest with all the things that have happened.” said Gordon Tenga, a third semester culinary student from Lancaster, Pa. “I sort of feel lied to.”

The board of trustees met Wednesday to discuss the school’s fate but no official word came out about what was going to happen.

“Today the BIC Board of Trustees met to seriously review all options for the College while keeping in mind the welfare of our students, faculty, and staff,” the school posted on its official Facebook page. “The Board of Trustees plans to issue a formal public statement on June 30, 2011.”

Possibilities range from closing the school to appealing the decision.

Outside of the announcement, the school has been mum about what could happen since the initial reports came out about a possible closure. Calls to Baltimore International College President Edgar Schick and several members of the board of trustees were not returned.

Gianina Chiddo, a second semester culinary student from Crofton, said the school was doing a poor job of keeping students informed. To find out what was happening she had to turn to the Internet and those teachers who would speak candidly about what was happening.

“I feel like the school handled it horribly,” she said. “We all need the truth, whether it’s good or bad. I know that sometimes you don’t want to give people information until you know all the details, but this is our lives. And if we need to make other plans, we need to start doing so.”

The board met Wednesday to decide how to proceed after the Middle States Commission on Higher Education said its accreditation of Baltimore International College would be pulled on Aug. 30.

“Once schools lose their accreditation, the biggest problem is their students are no longer eligible for any federal financial aid,” said Richard Pokrass, spokesman for Middle States Commission on Higher Education. “For many institutions it’s a kiss of death to lose that major revenue stream.”

At Baltimore International College, federal student loans are crucial. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, about half of the school’s 497 students receive federal aid in some form. The average amount in the 2008- 2009 school year, the most recent available, was $11,997.

According to figures provided by the school, tuition for its bachelors and associate degree programs is $17,930 per year. Adding in fees, books and room and board takes the total to $34,317 for the culinary management program, $30,621 for the hospitality management program and $37,915 for the associate degree program.

For the year ending June 30, 2010, Baltimore International College received $9.29 million in tuition and fees from students. Revenue from housing and the school’s training businesses accounted for an additional $3.96 million in revenue.

The accreditation problem dates to 2007 when Middle States said Baltimore International College was in compliance with six of 14 standards of accreditation. Pokrass said there was a series of monitoring reports and visits to the school and other actions taken before the decision was made to take accreditation away.

Taylor Wright, a third semester culinary student from Easton, said she was surprised the problems raised by the commission had not been addressed.

“You’d think that they’d have been trying to address this if they’ve known about this problem since 2007,” she said. “They’ve had a lot of time to fix their problems and I haven’t seen any upgrades in the culinary or academic classes.”

Ricky King, a third semester culinary student from Calvert County, said he could see where the committee could have some issues with the school’s program.

“I feel the academics here are very weak, almost middle school levels,” he said. “In looking with all the paperwork from Middle States, it’s all involved with the academics. The culinary building is wonderful, the chefs are amazing, but in other areas there’s a lack of education, a lack of communication. Things fall through the cracks here.”

The uncertainty about the school’s future weighed on students.

“I gave up a lot to come here, this is my life,” Chiddo said. “I moved here. I don’t really have a back-up plan. I hope to transfer but I don’t really know if that’s going to work out money wise. A lot of my credits don’t transfer. Until we know more, I can’t really transfer.”

Others worried about transferring, if it came to that and what credits could be transferred, and if they could meet deadlines to get into another school.

“If we’re supposed to transfer somehow, there are a lot of deadlines coming up,” Wright said. “We needed to know this earlier so we could be prepared for what might happen. It would have been a little bit more understandable if we had more time.”