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Baltimore City Community College: A Long Way to Go

May 2004 / Education / Abell Reports

Two years yield few meaningful reforms, and underscore deep-seated challenges facing city residents’ largest provider of post-secondary education.

Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) is the only chance for many of Baltimore City’s residents to obtain a post-secondary education, land a decent-paying job, and earn a sufficient income to support a family. BCCC is also critical to the local economy as a linchpin in Baltimore’s ability to build a competitive workforce. Yet Baltimore’s largest provider of post-secondary education (with 7,300 credit students) graduates fewer than 270 students each year, a reflection of the insufficient academic foundation that students bring to the college. BCCC has historically struggled to move students through its developmental or remedial program—review courses in math and English that 94 percent of new enrollees require—and of those students who do make it through and go on to college-level courses, many fail to realize their goal of obtaining a certificate or degree. Students who apply to the nursing program, for example, have already completed their remedial courses, yet preliminary exams and courses show that many are still unable to perform the basic skills taught in BCCC’s developmental courses.

At the same time, BCCC represents a sizable State investment. Unlike other Maryland community colleges, which rely on the State for just one-third of their public funding and local governments for the rest, BCCC receives two-thirds of its public dollars directly from the State. Much as it did with Baltimore City’s district courts, the State assumed funding responsibility when it took over BCCC. Add to these State dollars local and federal support, and 70 percent of BCCC’s annual budget—a projected $76 million for FY 2005—is taxpayer-funded. Yet this State funding is not linked to any kind of State oversight, a situation that has been particularly apparent in the last two years as BCCC has made little progress in its recent attempts at reform. These failures to strengthen BCCC and move it forward have, in turn, severely limited the returns on taxpayer’s substantial investment in the institution.

Given both the sizable stakes of a successful BCCC, and the college’s inability to fulfill its potential, it is the conclusion of this report that there need to be significant changes at BCCC, starting with its Board of Trustees.