Hopkins puts Baltimore a notch above Newark Impact: In employment, in health, in research, in culture, the university contributes greatly to city's life.

Education Beat

November 16, 1997|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

WITHOUT the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore would be Newark, a former Charm City politician once observed.

That's not very charitable to Newark, which has its share of universities and a business climate superior to Baltimore's, at least in the estimation of Donald L. Miller, who said last week he's moving his new national newspaper, Our World News, from here to there.

So let's say simply that without Hopkins, Baltimore would be a beggar. Not only are Hopkins and its affiliates the mainstays of the city's economy; they also provide much of the city's cultural and intellectual capital.

According to a report from the Jacob France Center at the University of Baltimore, Hopkins employs almost 12,000 city residents, 43 percent of the university's 25,000 employees. This means that a large part of the university's $585 million payroll last year went to city people.

The university and its affiliates spent $450 million in the city in 1996. And the Homewood campus, which by long-standing policy opens all its speeches and other events to the public at no charge, is a haven for cultural freeloaders.

In Maryland higher education, Hopkins is the tail that wags the dog. It awarded a third of the doctorates last year and 27 percent of the master's degrees. It conducts an astonishing 85 percent of the state's academic and medical research.

Hopkins owned the ground rent on my first house in Baltimore. This year, it almost bought my office. Hopkins owns no funeral homes, but if you're born at one of its hospitals and take a course in your 90s at its School of Continuing Studies, you can go (nearly) from cradle to grave with Hopkins and never be on its payroll.

The great thing about universities is that, while they're big businesses, they aren't subject to takeovers. And you can move a spice plant, but it's awfully hard to move universities and hospitals. In the early 1960s, I'm told, a momentous decision was made in the Hopkins board room. It was made without any publicity.

The decision was to keep Hopkins' medical institutions in East Baltimore -- there had been pressure to move to the suburbs -- and to expand them, thus guaranteeing that the university, medical school and renowned hospital would be a force in the city at least until the 21st century.

Deadbeats are fewer at Hopkins, too

The federal government announced last week that the default rate on student loans is down for the fifth consecutive year. It attributed the drop to a strong economy and greater efforts to make borrowers pay up.

In Maryland, default statistics show an interesting economic pattern. Expensive private colleges such as Johns Hopkins have fewer deadbeats. Hopkins' default rate (the percentage of recipients who defaulted in the first or second year of repayment) was 1.8 percent last year, compared with a national rate of 10.4 percent.

At the other extreme are private career schools. One such school, Northwest Beauty School of Baltimore, had a default rate last year of 58.8 percent.

As colleges and universities increase tuition, they have to be concerned about student debt. More than half the students who earned bachelor's degrees last year had federal loan debts, averaging $12,000.

In releasing the figures, the Education Department cited increased efforts to go after the shirkers. But the department itself is shirking its duties.

In January, Secretary of Education Richard Riley praised the government's direct loan program for offering borrowers "more repayment options after school." Seven months later, inundated by 70,000 requests and in administrative disarray, the department halted applications from students who wanted to restructure their loans.

Speaking of career schools, 32 of 103 profit-making vocational schools accredited by the Maryland Higher Education Commission train cosmetologists and manicurists. Could there be that many beauty shops?

Pell Grants turn 25, Hopkins MLA program 35

Two November anniversaries worth noting:

The federal government's Pell Grant program is 25 years old. Unlike student loan programs, Pell grants scholarships only to low-income students. Since its establishment in 1972, it has awarded more than $100 billion to some 30 million college students.

Johns Hopkins' Master of Liberal Arts program is 35. Former state Sen. Julian Lapides and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume are among past Hopkins MLA students. Then there's Arnall Patz, an ophthalmologist and former director of the Wilmer Eye Clinic, who's earning his master's at age 77.

But the vast majority of the program's 2,400 graduates are people like Jo Fisher of Linthicum, who have never been in a headline but who love learning and plug away because they want spouse, children and grandchildren to see them with a Hopkins degree.

Fisher, 57, earned that degree in May.

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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