President Kurt Schmoke of the University of Baltimore proposed an awesome idea July 15 in an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun to combine the University of Baltimore, Coppin State University and Baltimore City Community College. I am in favor of the proposal, and wrote to Gov. Larry Hogan last year proposing a similar idea.
Streamlining these institutions as separate organizations, under the purview of a single chair, board of trustees and chief executive could eliminate much of the bloat at these organizations.
Under my proposal, the chief executive would be known as the chancellor, and the organization would be under the auspice of the University System of Maryland. For academic quality and assurance, each institution should retain a president and provost. However, the organizations would be restructured.
Under a joint name, Coppin State University of Baltimore, my proposal would have graduate and professional schools, bachelors programs, and associate degree and workforce development training. Baltimore City Community College would retain its name, however, would continue to fall under the new reporting structure. The professional schools at the University of Baltimore and Coppin would stay in place in terms of location.
Both have state-of-the-art health and human services and law buildings. Meanwhile, the graduate programs and staff should be moved to the University of Baltimore’s current location and bachelor’s programs would be moved to Coppin. This would resemble the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s graduate and professional programs. The free community college and “finish for free” programs between Baltimore City Public Schools, Baltimore City Community College and Coppin would also stay in place in order to create a pipeline for future graduates.
There is also the elephant in the room. It is imperative that all stakeholders maintain Coppin’s HBCU status when forming a new cultural identity.
Yes, we can merge it with the young and edgy, hipster-friendly UB; but we must maintain that Coppin State has a unique history to the city of Baltimore. The school was formed to train generations of black teachers, such as former Maryland delegate Peggy Murphy, in times of de jure and de facto segregation. Students come from all over the country to study there. The school is also known for its health sciences programs. It hosts the state’s only HBCU doctorate of nursing practice program. This program could benefit from the vast networks that are currently possessed by University of Baltimore alumni and regional entities.
Every stakeholder must do all that they can to expand Coppin’s identity to include its hipster friendly counterpart, while also being sensitive to things such as the beloved HBCU homecoming, sports teams and diversity. This leads to another point of interest, real estate.
UB is maxed out and landlocked. Coppin is surrounded by a neighborhood in need of development without displacement. Coppin also has a state-of-the-art gym, football and soccer fields. Maintaining these programs are important to the identity of the traditional college experience. There is yet another real estate benefit: housing. By moving UB’s undergraduate programs to Coppin, students will be able to take advantage of an abundance of housing options surrounding the school. The neighborhood is going through revitalization efforts. Affordable housing has already been built around the school, including near Mondawmin. There’s also more than enough room to repurpose and up-zone houses for redevelopment, which is currently in an opportunity zone.
This “merger” non-merger, as its being called, would be historic. But, ultimately it’s needed. In recent years higher education has been taken for a whim. Schools have closed and some, including the University of Baltimore, have furloughed staff to meet budget constraints. Merging the three schools into Coppin State University of Baltimore is the proactive option.
Doing so, we can preserve history, while looking forward.
–TERRENCE “TERRY” THRWEATT JR.
The writer is law student at the University of Baltimore. He is also a Democratic and community activist and owns a brand management and marketing firm. He is the son of a former BCCC business professor.
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