The staff cuts
Mr. Avery was brought in four years ago with a mandate to make changes, and he has done so in a way that, perhaps predictably, has ruffled some feathers. Change is hard anywhere, but especially in academia. Like other four-year institutions in the
No one disputes that turning Coppin around is an enormous task. The school serves the most economically challenged community of all of Maryland's four-year public colleges and universities, and its campus is located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Baltimore City. Many of its students are the first in their family to attend college, and they often come from the worst performing secondary schools in the state. For years, the school's graduation rate has been less than 20 percent, and a third of incoming freshmen drop out after their first year.
Mr. Avery is working to improve those numbers, and over the last two years, first- and second-year retention rates have improved somewhat as a result of a summer remedial math and reading program he created to prepare incoming freshmen for college-level work. That and other initiatives, such as a student resource center that offers on-demand mentoring and tutoring and mid-semester grade reports to identify students having trouble with their courses, have begun to move the school in the right direction, though it clearly still has a long way to go.
That said, Coppin has made undeniable progress in building up its academic programs. It has an excellent undergraduate
None of these initiatives is likely to turn the school around, however, unless Mr. Avery and his staff can find a way to grow overall enrollment and shepherd more entering freshman through to graduation. The state formula for allocating higher education funds is based student attendance, so Coppin clearly needs to reach out to a more diverse applicant pool to meet its enrollment targets. Though the school has a proud tradition of graduating teachers and social workers, it can no longer rely solely on those programs to take it to the next level.