Tag Archives: higher education

Caret Comes Home

By Barry Rascovar

Dec. 18, 2014 — Hooray for Jim Shea and the rest of the University of Maryland Board of Regents for making a common-sense choice in choosing Bob Caret as the new chancellor of Maryland’s state university system.

U. Mass President Bob Caret

New USM Chancellor Bob Caret

In an Oct. 2 column, I listed Caret as one of the best candidates with in-state higher education experience. He’s got the right personality to keep 12 competing academic institutions on the same page.

After all, he’s “been there, done that” — as president of Towson University. He’s seen what works and doesn’t work in drawing all of USM’s presidents into collaboration. (He also spent nine years running the 28,000-student San Jose State University campus to rave reviews.)

Strong Local Roots

Caret understands what it takes to coordinate a sprawling university system with multiple power centers and geographic locations. He’s done that with a great degree of success as president of the 70,000-student, five-campus University of Massachusetts since 2011.

Though he’s a New Englander, Caret’s academic career (29 years on the Towson faculty) give him strong Maryland roots. He’ll start as chancellor knowing the key players in Annapolis and in state higher education.

The regents wisely picked someone whose path parallels the career track of the outgoing chancellor of the 153,000-student University System of Maryland, the legendary Brit Kirwan (45 years on the College Park faculty).

University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan

USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan

Both men spent decades in the teaching trenches (Kirwan’s PhD. is in mathematics, Caret’s is in organic chemistry), then moved up the administrative ladder to become chief academic officer, Kirwan at College Park, Caret at Towson.

Each man gained on-the-ground experience running a university campus within a larger system — Kirwan at College Park for 10 years, Caret for 18 years split between San Jose State and Towson.

The two men also had served in major CEO roles running large, state university systems, Kirwan at Ohio State, Caret at U.Mass.

And both returned to their true higher education home, Maryland.

Mid-Year Transition

In some ways it will be an awkward transition, though that Kirwan and Caret have known each other and worked cooperatively for over three decades.

Caret’s appointment is effective next July 1. That means Kirwan, not Caret, must handle the budget retrenchment now taking place within USM’s $1.1 billion fiscal blueprint.

“Downsizing” and “right-sizing” are the operative words under Gov.-elect Larry Hogan Jr. and that will mean painful shrinkage on state university campuses.

Larry Hogan Jr.

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan Jr.

Caret must live with budget decisions made months before he arrives. He won’t be able to put his full imprint on fiscal plans until the budget for 2016 is drawn up.

That will be the key budget year for both Caret and Hogan. By then, both will be in their new jobs long enough to formulate a broader, long-range vision that will be incorporated into the state’s budget (and the university system’s budget) a year from now.

Caret is well aware of the dramatic message Maryland voters sent government leaders: Spending is spinning out of control, as are taxes; yet government isn’t doing enough to encourage job-creation.

The Maine native struck the right notes in his initial comments, saying he’ll focus on two academic priorities — making quality college education affordable and building “a research-based economic engine.”

He’s already singing Hogan’s song!

USM logo

While many USM institutions are thriving and rising in prestige, Caret faces a tough task improving the performance of the bottom-rung schools — Coppin and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

UMES’ collaboration with nearby Salisbury University is beginning to pay academic dividends, but Coppin’s sorry status remains deeply troubling. There’s a sharp disconnect between the abysmal performance of Coppin compared with the rest of the USM campuses.

Uninformed Comments

That disconnect was acutely illustrated in comments by a Coppin professor in responding to Caret’s appointment.

Virletta Bryant, who chairs USM’s faculty council, displayed stunning ignorance in stating that the USM faculty didn’t know enough about Caret to offer an opinion.

Heck, he’s only been a faculty member in the system for three decades!

Then Bryant went on to display an appalling lack of knowledge of how USM actually conducts its business by criticizing the secretiveness of the regent’s search for Kirwan’s successor.

Hasn’t she read the law that mandates the chancellor search, and vote, must be kept secret?

If that’s the best a Coppin professor heading the system’s faculty council has to offer, no wonder Coppin students are getting such a poor education.

###

MD Higher Ed: Kurt’s In, Brit’s Out

By Barry Rascovar

May 19, 2014 — In 24 hours last week, Maryland higher education underwent a rapid shakeup.

First came the long-expected but deeply regretted retirement announcement of William E. “Brit” Kirwan as top dog at the University System of Maryland.

University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan

USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan

Then came the surprise announcement former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is returning to his birth city as president of the University of Baltimore.

Kurt’s in; Brit’s out.

50-Year Academic Career

There’s no way to put a happy face on Kirwan’s retirement.

He’s been Mr. Higher Education in Maryland. Except for five years running a little ol’ rustbelt university called Ohio State, Kirwan dedicated his 50-year academic career to UM.

This former math professor staged a triumphal return from Ohio State as the popular choice to turn the UM system into a first-rate collegiate conglomerate. He largely succeeded, leaving USM with an international reputation.

The Chronicle of Higher Education rightly called the congenial Kirwan “a longtime national figure in public higher education.”

From Mayor to Dean

Schmoke, meanwhile, didn’t leave Baltimore in 1999 on an upbeat note.

His three terms as mayor of a troubled, aging urban city received middling marks. Progress largely stalled.

His place in the city’s history fades compared to his do-it-now predecessor (William Donald Schaefer) and his charismatic successor (Martin O’Malley).

The quiet, thoughtful Schmoke was better suited to academia.

New University of Baltimore President Kurt Schmoke

New UB President Kurt Schmoke

He found his niche as dean of the law school at Howard University (2003-2012), where he restored the school’s diminished reputation. During a time of flux at Howard, he then provided stability in the dual roles of general counsel and interim provost.

Now he’s been handed academia’s brass ring — a college presidency.

Bogomolny’s Contribution

Schmoke is fortunate he’s following the transformative Robert Bogomolny, who showed that a good manager with vision can put a struggling university on an upward trajectory. New, standout mid-town buildings. A full four-year undergraduate curriculum. A higher profile among Baltimore schools.

Continuing that momentum should be easy for Schmoke, given his wide name recognition among city elites, his genial demeanor and his understanding of what makes Baltimore tick.

The new UB president may have more difficulty adapting to the sharp elbows and intense in-fighting among leaders at the 11-campus, 154,000-student University System of Maryland.

Schmoke fared well at Howard, a private college with 10,000 students. UB has only 6,500 students and is part of a huge public university closely scrutinized by Annapolis politicians and overseen by a chancellor.

Kirwan’s Achievements

That’s where Kirwan could have provided strong support and guidance.

He kept simmering intra-campus disputes under control and steered feuding parties toward collegial middle ground. He balanced competing interests at those institutions while demanding improved academic performance.University System of Maryland

Kirwan embarked on an efficiency and innovation campaign, under pressure from the Republican Ehrlich administration, leading to over $400 million in savings. This made tuition hold-downs possible under the Democratic O’Malley administration without harming classroom quality.

The USM Chancellor championed broader use of less expensive internet courses, integrating computers into traditional lecture courses, eliminating non-essential offerings and revamping math, science and engineering programs.

Kirwan knew how to communicate with powerful regents, governors, legislators, competing college presidents, students and the public.

Who Comes Next? 

Finding a replacement with that same demeanor and collaborative mindset won’t be easy, but at least two USM presidents ought to receive strong consideration — Dr. Jay Perman at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and Freeman Hrabowski at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Without Kirwan around, Schmoke will have to learn through experience that being a second-tier college president in a massive university system like USM isn’t all upbeat.

Exiting Chancellor Kirwan and UB President Robert Bogomolny

Exiting this summer: Chancellor Brit Kirwan (L) and UB President Robert Bogomolny (R)

The system’s largest and most important campuses, UMB and the flagship College Park institution, get most of the money and attention — deservedly so.

Meanwhile, a surging Towson University, with three times more students and massive campus improvements, is upstaging UB and attracting many of the best prospective UB undergraduates.

At the same time, a federal lawsuit by historically black institutions over program duplication could put a crimp in UB’s plans to offer popular areas of study.

Whither Higher Education?

Public higher education in Maryland is littered with question marks at the moment.

It’s becoming too expensive. Yet demand grows for more and better career-path studies. Fund-raising is difficult because of the system’s heavy state subsidy.

Competition among area institutions, both public and private (UMBC, Towson, UB, UMB, Coppin, Morgan State, Loyola, Notre Dame, Hopkins, Goucher, Stevenson), is intense.

Schmoke will have his hands full at the University of Baltimore.

So will Brit Kirwan’s successor as chancellor of the state’s university system.

#  #  #

 

 

 

 

The New Segregation in Maryland Colleges

By Barry Rascovar

November 5, 2013 — U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE Catherine C. Blake missed the mark by a country mile in her decision on eliminating vestiges of racial separation in Maryland’s state colleges and universities.

Indeed, her remedy perpetuates Maryland’s “shameful history of de jure segregation throughout much of the past century.”

Blake wants Maryland’s predominantly white colleges to give up popular programs so historically black institutions  (HBIs)can develop monopolies in those areas.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake

Judge Catherine C. Blake

This, she reasons, will send white students flocking to HBI campuses.

That idealistic but flawed logic – students have numerous options today that make mass transfers to HBIs highly unlikely – is now guiding discussions between the two parties in Blake’s courtroom.

Central Issue Unaddressed

But the root of the problem remains firmly intact. Indeed, it wasn’t even touched upon in Blake’s 60-page ruling.

The most effective and rational way to eliminate segregation at Maryland state colleges? Dramatically transform the schools that remain overwhelmingly segregated.

Morgan State, Coppin State, Bowie State and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore were established to give African Americans separate college opportunities.

That is still the case – only the education offered at HBIs is too often inferior:

  • Which Maryland state colleges have, by a wide margin, the lowest SAT scores for entering freshmen? The HBIs.
  • Which schools have the highest remediation needs, by far? The HBIs.
  • Which schools have the lowest graduation rates, by far? The HBIs.

Maryland has tried to solve this by throwing money at the problem.  Yet even Judge Blake concluded the HBIs get far more state aid per student than other colleges.

This approach hasn’t worked.

Expensive construction projects for HBIs have given those campuses beautiful new buildings and state of the art equipment. Yet they remain segregated.

And they underperform academically, which punishes students.

Perpetuating the Problem

As long as Maryland supports colleges grounded in perpetuating their role as HBIs, they will remain out of the main stream – and unlikely to ever become well-integrated campuses.

That’s the cruel truth African American leaders don’t want to hear.

Morgan State students

Morgan State students in class

Over the decades they have vehemently resisted any suggestion other than pouring more and more money into the HBIs.

They’re proud of their colleges, which have endured incredible hardships.

They especially don’t want HBIs to lose their special status as incubators for African American professionals.

21st Century Solution Needed

But this is the 21st century, not the early or mid-20th century. You can’t live in the past.

Colleges segregated by sex are nearly extinct. Military colleges are dwindling. Diversity, not exclusivity, is the goal of universities.

It’s ironic that attempts to truly integrate Maryland higher education meet the strongest resistance from leaders of the African American community.

White politicians have gone along with their African American colleagues rather than face a firestorm of angry bigotry accusations.

This simply continues the status quo – a de facto, segregated higher education system.

By the Numbers

Students, meanwhile, are voting with their feet. Every year historically white state colleges draw a more diverse group of students:

  • University College, the online option at the University of Maryland, enrolls more students of color (19,299) than whites (16,713).
  • At College Park, white students (19,669) make up only a little over half the student body (37,241).
  • At UMBC, white students (6,548) constitute less than half of overall enrollment (13,637).
  • At the University of Baltimore, black (2,412) and white enrollment (2,888) is close to even.

Now look at the situation at Maryland’s four HBIs:

  • Morgan State has 273 white students out of total of 6,677 (4 percent).
  • Bowie State has 198 white students out of 4,731 (4 percent).
  • UMES has 675 white students among its student body of 4,454 (15 percent).
  • Coppin State counts just 49 white students out of a total of 3,039 (1.6 percent).

It’s not just whites who feel out of place on those campuses. Even fewer Asians or Hispanics sign up there. It’s a dismal situation.

Blake’s remedy might be part of a broader solution, but simply redistributing popular academic programs won’t do enough.

After all, colleges operate in a competitive marketplace. If HBI campuses remain comfortable islands of black students, other students will simply gravitate elsewhere.

It’s already happening. Shifting academic programs isn’t a compelling answer.

Unpopular Options

What might work? Mergers, consolidations and intensive collaborations among Maryland state colleges.

Here are some ideas – all too hot for politicians or educators to handle:

UMES

Salisbury University and UMES already are engaged in successful intra-campus academics that are popular with students from both institutions.

UMES campus

UMES campus

What’s now needed is a long-range plan to gradually merge Salisbury into UMES.

The goal should be strong academic centers of excellence on both the Salisbury and Princess Anne campuses – only 12 miles apart.

Two-campus institutions are eminently workable. A prime example: Stevenson University’s enormous success operating a liberal arts Greenspring Valley campus and a new, fast-growing Owings Mills campus with a quite different academic focus.

The howls of protests would be fierce. Yet the benefits for students attending a twin-campus University of Maryland, Eastern Shore would be immense.

Morgan State

Morgan State Logo

Morgan State Logo

Of all the HBIs, Morgan State University is best positioned to evolve into an academic gem. It needs special status, though, similar to the arrangement the state established for St. Mary’s College.

It would take considerable extra state support and creativity to develop a range of targeted, demanding, urban-focused programs that appeal to a rainbow of students from Mid-Atlantic states and beyond.

Coppin State

Few students arrive on this West Baltimore campus well prepared. Most need an enormous amount of remedial help. The graduation rate is a terrible 20 percent.

Coppin needs to give laser-like attention to undergraduate education.

An affiliation with the Baltimore City Community College seems the best fit. After all, community colleges do a great job preparing poorly educated high school graduates for the rigors of college academics – Coppin’s biggest failing.

Close collaboration with the University of Baltimore is a necessity, too.

UB offers quality undergraduate teaching for its diverse student body and popular post-graduate programs.

Consolidation or merger of the two nearby schools would be the best long-term outcome.

Bowie State

This campus should become the adopted “little sister” of the University of Maryland, College Park. There’s no telling how many niche programs from the flagship institution might fit neatly onto the Bowie campus.

Bowie_State_University_GatewayThe caliber of teaching would be vastly improved with close collaboration, too.

A second step: Bring Prince George’s Community College onto the Bowie campus to mentor and prepare freshmen for college-level courses.

Adjusting to Today’s Realities

None of the four HBIs should continue to exist in their current role.

Through no fault of their own they represent the shameful, segregated past. They were created and perpetuated to keep the races separate.

That separation remains in place today, but for different reasons.

It is time to put this sad history to rest through steps that truly integrate Maryland’s HBIs into this century’s more inclusive American society.

###

 

 

Towson University leaves teams abandoned

By Barry Rascovar/ The Community Times/ May 1, 2013

If your son excels at baseball or soccer and is looking to play that sport in college, you can forget about sending him to Towson University.

In a comedy of errors, Baltimore County’s largest higher education institution disbanded the two men’s teams, despite the popularity of each sport.

President Maravene Loeschke wielded the ax. She bought the logic of her athletic director that Towson must divert sports revenue to turn its basketball and football programs into regional powers.

Unfortunately, her public explanation also involved the need to bring equity to women’s sports at Towson. She picked an odd way to make that happen.

Especially cruel was the university president’s delivery of the bad news. On short notice she summoned the two teams, showed up with security guards, made her announcement and left without answering questions from the stunned audience.

It was a heartless display of authority. The students were treated more like discarded furniture than confused, emotionally upset individuals. Loeschke shattered their college dreams yet couldn’t take time to show any empathy.

No wonder she ended up in hot water with both the governor and state comptroller. No wonder her actions precipitated vocal protests from some alumni.

Baseball won a two-year reprieve when the governor found $300,000 to rescue the program while supporters try to raise funds to make the reprieve permanent. Soccer, the world’s biggest sport, got no such relief.

Critics have pointed out that shifting resources to the football and basketball programs won’t turn Towson into the UCLA of the East.

Even if every seat in Towson’s new arena and Unitas Stadium is filled, the crowds will be puny next to the College Park teams that join the Big Ten athletic conference next year.

Towson will never be — nor should it be — a training ground for athletes who turn pro after a few years in college. Loeschke is throwing money at a vision that isn’t realistic.

At the same time, complying with federal equal opportunity regulations need not come at the expense of existing sports programs. Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, College Park, roiled that suburban Washington campus when he disbanded eight men and women sports teams last year for lack of funds. But he did so with a great deal of compassion, calling his decision “heart-wrenching.”

In both cases the affected students felt betrayed. Their college lives had been ruined by administrators who couldn’t balance their budgets.

Many are transferring to other schools. But that will be traumatic and expensive.

It is a sad story, which will reverberate for years at Towson University. These student-athletes deserved a better fate.

Barry Rascovar is a Reisterstown writer and communications consultant. He can be reached at brascovar@outlook.com.