Success story in Baltimore

January 27, 1992

With all the depressing news in Baltimore education -- the on-again, off-again school and library closings, for instance -- it is refreshing that one public institution seems to be doing something right: The New Community College of Baltimore, reborn 18 months ago, last fall led the state in enrollment increases for full-time students (up 34 percent) and new students (up 42 percent). Even in a recession, NCCB is thriving.

What turned around the situation at NCCB was the state takeover of the two-year community college in 1990 from the city of Baltimore. State officials ended tenure and got rid of faculty dead wood; they set up a more sensible system of three-year faculty contracts and reviews; they closed seven low-enrollment programs but targeted six popular programs for enhancement, and they established cooperative programs with public high schools and Baltimore County community colleges.

Even when the state reneged on a $2 million aid increase, and instead cut the school's funding by $1.9 million, NCCB reacted with creativity. It found ways to reduce overhead, eliminate a mass communications program -- and balance its books without raising tuition. It was the only community college in Maryland able to accomplish that feat.

NCCB plays a key role in the metropolitan region's job-training picture. It caters to the city's poor students, who often need to learn basic education skills to get entry-level jobs. Some 90 percent of NCCB students require remedial English or mathematics courses. A well-trained pool of workers for area businesses is crucial for the economic success of the region.

The General Assembly will be asked this session to make the state takeover of NCCB permanent. It also should endorse plans to upgrade the school's Liberty Road campus and to develop NCCB's prime downtown campus. A consultant's report said that development of a parking lot, office tower and a hotel on NCCB property could net the college $3 million a year in new income. That would be a cost-efficient use of college land.

Under interim president James D. Tschechtelin, NCCB has made a remarkable transition. Students have recognized the change and are flocking to enroll at the school. As long as officials upgrade the caliber of the college's offerings and tailor their programs to the needs of its students, NCCB should have a bright future.

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