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Eye on Annapolis

The Daily Record's Maryland state government blog

Schmoke takes on realignment of Baltimore City Community College

University of Baltimore President and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has been tapped to lead a reconstituted board of trustees tasked with overhauling Baltimore City Community College.

University of Baltimore President Kurt L. Schmoke (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

University of Baltimore President Kurt L. Schmoke (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Schmoke’s appointment to chair the nine-member board was announced by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.

Under legislation passed earlier this year, the new board will focus on making the community college more relevant to businesses and attractive to city students.

“Baltimore City Community College is a critical linchpin in Baltimore, particularly on the west side,” Busch said in a statement. “We need to ensure that the institution provides academic opportunities and job training to the highest levels across the City. Kurt Schmoke has knowledge of both the City and the State’s higher education system that will help guide BCCC to serve the needs of the residents of the City.”

Last year, a study by the  University of Baltimore Schaefer Center for Public Policy urged “bold changes” for the ailing community college system.

The 236-page report noted that the college struggles to meet the needs of city residents and businesses, is not financially sustainable and frustrates local businesses and drives city students to community colleges in Baltimore County even though courses are more expensive there.

The authors called for sweeping changes to the governance structure of the college, elimination of programs and staff, a budget that more accurately reflects its enrollment and financial situation, and a focus on building relationships with businesses in the city and being responsive to job training needs.

Included in the possible bold fixes was a call to move the community college out from under state government control and into the University System of Maryland — a proposal opposed by Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City and chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Conway, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill that will reconstitute the board and realign the mission of the community college,  dismissed the legislature-commissioned report last fall as a collection of  “fancy charts and graphs.”

The 2016 report was one of a number of similar studies conducted over the last 25 years. None has resulted in changes that addressed the institution’s problems.

The community college is unique among Maryland’s 15 other two-year institutions because it is not run by the local jurisdiction in which it operates. The state took over operations from the city, mostly to absorb the costs, in 1990. And while the city still contributes roughly $1 million annually, the college is a state entity.

State takeover of the college, however, has created its own problems including complicating procurement.

Over the last 25 years the college struggled with controlling costs and declining enrollment.

Its 3,100 students pales in comparison to the more than 105,000 students at the Community College of Baltimore County — an institution attended by 8,000 city students despite the additional costs, according to the 2016 report.

Over the last 10 years, the college has had its accreditation placed on warning status twice and on probation status once over the assessment of student outcomes.

 

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