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Fewer Black Grads?

HCC officials: Report doesnâEUR(TM)t give whole story

HCC officials: Report doesnâEUR(TM)t give whole story

April 02, 2006|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

At Hagerstown Community College, the number of associate degrees awarded to black students declined 48 percent in nine years, according to a report the state submitted last month to the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights.

But HCC officials said the report ? prepared by the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) to examine the status of black students at institutions of higher education across Maryland between 1995 and 2004 ? does not tell the whole story.

The MHEC's report does not specifically include other racial minorities or women. It also does not include figures for 2005, when HCC officials say the number of black students receiving degrees at the school reached a record high.

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That record high, however, includes both two-year associate degrees and certificates, which are awarded for what usually are year-long programs.

According to the report, only 12 of the 305 HCC students who received associate degrees in 2004 were black. That was a 48 percent decline compared to 1995, when 23 black students received associate degrees.

In 2005 ? the year after the study ended ? "we had more African-American graduates than in any point in our history," HCC President Guy Altieri said.

That year, 45 black students graduated from HCC ? 23 with associate degrees and 22 with certificates, HCC spokeswoman Beth Stull said.

"We are working very, very hard to increase those numbers," Altieri said.

The report

The MHEC's report is the latest in the joint effort between the state and the federal Office of Civil Rights to desegregate the state's colleges and universities, said David Sumler, the MHEC's assistant secretary for Planning and Academic Affairs.

At stake for Maryland's colleges and universities is federal funding, which could be jeopardized should the Office of Civil Rights find that the state hasn't made adequate gains, Sumler said. He said such an outcome was unlikely.

For more than three decades, the State of Maryland has been trying to prove to the Office of Civil Rights that it has not been operating under a racially divided higher education system, Sumler said.

While the report primarily emphasizes four-year and historically black schools, Sumler said community colleges are included in the report and could be a critical part of the Office of Civil Rights' concluding report, which is due at the end of the academic year.

"An increasing number of students are beginning at community colleges, with the increasing costs of education," Sumler said. "This is something that would be important (for) any group."

According to the MHEC's report, the state's community colleges collectively have become more diverse over the last decade, with more black students enrolling and receiving degrees and more minorities in teaching positions.

But during the nine years considered in the report, HCC lagged behind much of the state in several areas, particularly in the number of black students receiving associate degrees and in the number of black full-time faculty and staff.

The decline in associate degrees awarded to blacks during the period of the study bucked a state trend, MHEC officials said.

The report shows that the number of black students receiving associate degrees at community colleges across Maryland increased 51 percent, from 1,209 in 1995 to 1,833 in 2004.

The total number of associate degree recipients was 9,143 in 2004, a 6 percent increase during the nine-year period, according to MHEC data.

Faculty

The report also showed that HCC never has had more than one full-time faculty member of color since 1995. Most recently, HCC's only nonwhite, full-time faculty member, a black instructor, left in the last school year, HCC officials said.

As of the fall semester, all 69 of HCC's full-time faculty members were white, according to HCC data.

Garrett Community College and the Community College of Allegany County ? two other schools that serve Western Maryland ? and Carroll and Cecil community colleges were the only other schools in the state to have one or no faculty members who weren't white, according to the report.

Hiring officials at those schools previously said they have had difficulty attracting qualified minority candidates.

HCC's decline in the number of associate degrees awarded to black students during the period of the study came despite its increasing enrollment of black students and the increasing number of black students transferring to four-year schools, according to the report and data provided by HCC.

The only other community college to see a decline in associate degrees awarded to blacks during the period of the study was Baltimore City Community College, the campuses of which already served a large number of black students, according to the report and MHEC data.

During the study period, "Hagerstown is out of step with the rest of the state on that figure," said Mike Keller, the MHEC's director of Office of Policy and Analysis and Research. "I can't provide an explanation for that."

Some reasons

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