Who Wants this Prize?
The Mayor of Baltimore is offering free tuition to the Baltimore City Community College for all 2018 graduates of Baltimore City high schools. Such a deal! Except that fewer people every year want to attend BCCC. In fact, 8000 Baltimore City students bypassed BCCC and its reduced tuition of about $1,573 per semester to attend Baltimore County Community College at a cost of just over $3000. That is double the total number of students currently attending the City Community College.
Why is that? Well for one thing the outcomes from BCCC are terrible. Only 3.3% of the entering class in 2010 graduated four years later with an associate degree. This is the lowest percentage of any community college in the state. The percentage of students transferring to 4-year colleges is the second lowest in the state. The State pours more money into BCCC more than any other community college and yet the outcomes are still terrible. What’s the answer?
First of all, 93% of the entering freshmen need remedial coursework before they can even begin to do college work. That is the highest of any community college in Maryland. The State legislature has recently shaken up the composition of the Board of Trustees to shift the emphasis to help the college realign its priorities and connect to employers.
This may be terribly undemocratic but when it comes to college preparedness, we cannot simply declare college readiness and move on. The vast majority of Baltimore City high school graduates, all that testing notwithstanding, are not anywhere near prepared for college. Additionally, many of these kids do not come from a background where college graduation is a value. That is not bad, it is just different. What many of these kids need and want is a decent job with a basic income. The same can be said for students attending Coppin University but that is a blog for another day.
The emphasis at the City Community College needs to shift to preparing students for emerging and existing jobs. The certificate programs at the College are one of the few bright spots and graduates are doing well in passing the exams. We should stop wasting students’ time preparing them for more advanced academics. Let’s teach them the math they need to become an auto mechanic, an HVAC repair person, a PT or dental assistant or a practical nurse. The same can be said for the reading necessary for these jobs. Literature and algebra can come much later if at all. A basic course in civics would be good as well to help create an educated electorate.
Right now, only about 250 Baltimore City high school grads entered BCCC last year. The Mayor wants to increase that number to 1000. Unless the program changes dramatically, that will be throwing good students after bad ones and offer a prize that few people want.