BCCC chief re­jects merger plan

Join­ing Univer­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land not needed, May tells law­mak­ers

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Michael Dresser mdresser@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/michaelt­dresser

The pres­i­dent of Bal­ti­more City Com­mu­nity Col­lege told law­mak­ers Tues­day that he op­poses a rec­om­men­da­tion that the school join the Univer­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land.

Gor­don May, who has led BCCC for the past two years, said the school is mak­ing progress in the face of re­cent en­roll­ment de­clines and ac­cred­i­ta­tion trou­bles.

“The last thing we need is a struc­tural or gov­ern­men­tal over­haul,” May said at a joint hear­ing of the state Se­nate and House of Del­e­gates spend­ing com­mit­tees.

May was re­spond­ing to an Au­gust re­port by the Schae­fer Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy at the Univer­sity of Bal­ti­more, which called for sweep­ing changes in the way the com­mu­nity col­lege is run. The Gen­eral As­sem­bly di­rected the cen­ter to in­ves­ti­gate per­sis­tent prob­lems at the only state-run com­mu­nity col­lege in Mary­land.

The Mid­dle States Com­mis­sion on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion, the body that ac­cred­its BCCC, placed the school on “warn” sta­tus in 2014. The com­mis­sion said the school didn’t have a well-de­vel­oped strate­gic plan, had pub­lished in­cor­rect or out­dated in­for­ma­tion in some stu­dent ma­te­ri­als, and needed a bet­ter self-as­sess­ment process. The warn­ing was lifted the next year. The Schae­fer Cen­ter made 12 rec­om­men­da­tions. May re­jected the two most sweep­ing: bring­ing the col­lege un­der the univer­sity sys­tem and re­plac­ing its Board of Trustees with a Board of Vis­i­tors that would in­clude city of­fi­cials, busi­ness lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Bal­ti­more school sys­tem.

Del. Mag­gie McIn­tosh, the Bal­ti­more Demo­crat who chairs the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, ex­pressed de­ter­mi­na­tion to act on the cen­ter’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

“Let me as­sure you this year they won’t end up on the shelf,” McIn­tosh said. She said re­forms at BCCC would be her No. 1 is­sue in the leg­isla­tive ses­sion that be­gins in Jan­uary.

The Schae­fer Cen­ter pro­duced a list of prob­lems at BCCC.

The cen­ter said de­clines in en­roll­ment haven’t been matched by cuts to staff. En­roll­ment for credit dropped 28 per­cent be­tween 2012 and 2015, but the num­ber of reg­u­lar em­ploy­ees dropped only 8 per­cent.

Ann Cot­ten, di­rec­tor of the cen­ter, said many stu­dents from Bal­ti­more choose to en­roll in the Com­mu­nity Col­lege of Bal­ti­more County, even though its tu­ition is higher. She said city res­i­dents make up 28 per­cent of the county col­lege’s stu­dents.

Cot­ten said BCCC does not have the strong re­la­tion­ships with lo­cal govern­ment that other com­mu­nity col­leges around the state have.

“The col­lege is not con­nected to Bal­ti­more City in a mean­ing­ful way,” she said.

Cot­ten said BCCC faces unique chal­lenges be­cause up to 95 per­cent of its en­ter­ing stu­dents need re­me­dial in­struc­tion.

For­mer state Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Pa­tri­cia S. Florestano was a re­search ad­viser on the re­port.

If BCCC were made a part of the Univer­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land, she said, the com­mu­nity col­lege could gain po­lit­i­cal clout in Annapolis it doesn’t have as an in­de­pen­dent en­tity.

Sev­eral leg­is­la­tors ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about or op­po­si­tion to plac­ing the com­mu­nity col­lege un­der the univer­sity sys­tem.

Del. Adri­enne A. Jones of Bal­ti­more County, a mem­ber of the House Demo­cratic lead­er­ship, said she was “very much op­posed” to the idea.

JOSHUA MCKERROW/BAL­TI­MORE SUN ME­DIA GROUP

Mu­lowa Ka­jobo of the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion talks with stu­dents about street plan­ning at a STEM expo in Glen Burnie.

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