Abell Salutes: The Baltimore Scholars Program of Johns Hopkins University

December 2005 / Salutes / Education

For changing lives by changing the rules.

Twenty-three students are attending Johns Hopkins this year whose life circumstances suggest they never expected to be there. They are Baltimore Scholars, students living in Baltimore City who find themselves the fortunate beneficiaries of the university’s unique scholarship program, an outgrowth of its commitment, first, to improving the quality of life in Baltimore City, and second, to providing diversity to its student body.

Although measuring the success of the first objective may be vague — mixed as it is with many forces moving in confluence — data to confirm the success of the second is clear.

According to Dr. Matthew Crenson, academic director of the program, for each of the three years prior to the program’s beginning, applications to Johns Hopkins by Baltimore City public school students averaged 37; the number admitted, 11; the number actually enrolled, four. In 2005, the first year of the program, applications soared to 121; admitted, 33; enrolled, 23 — about six times as many. “Of those enrolled,” Dr. Crenson says, “about half were non-white—mostly African American, one was Asian.”

To create the pool of applicants, Hopkins’ admissions officers visit the public high schools in Baltimore City. The officers talk with guidance counselors and to the students recommended to them. They then determine if the applicant has been a resident of the city and attending a Baltimore city public school (both) for at least three years, and if he or she meets Hopkins standards for admission. Those admitted as Baltimore Scholars qualify for free tuition, and more money is available to them for other costs on a needs-basis.

Demetreus Gregg is an African American Baltimore Scholar now in his freshman year in the program at Hopkins. He was attending City College and in the second semester of his junior year, in a routine meeting with his college advisor, David Gibson, he was appraised of the Baltimore Scholars’ program. Gregg felt, and with good reason, that as daunting as the goal was, he had a chance of reaching it. He was president of the City College student body, had excellent grades as an International Baccalaureate student, and served as student representative on the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. “I found Hopkins to be a community of scholars, and though there were differences among us students, in terms of race, creed, and color, it was a strong, shared desire to learn that brought us together. The school arranges for the Scholars to share dinners and get-togethers. they do whatever it takes to provide for a student’s comfort level. I encourage high school student not to be intimated by lack of money, and the odds against being accepted, and to go for it. I went for it.” And, it needs to be added, got it.

The Abell Foundation salutes the Johns Hopkins University’s “Baltimore Scholars” program: Dr. William R. Brody, President of Johns Hopkins University; Dr. John Latting, Dr. Matthew Crenson, Dean Paula Burger, and William Conley, who made it all happen, and who changed lives by changing the rules.

Dr. Crenson says, “Although it is too early in the program to say how well the program will do in the future, it does appear to be getting bigger all the time. The word is out.”