I recently had the privilege of being David Pluviose’s guest on Diverse magazine’s “In the Margins” podcast titled “The risk that paid off.”  Through a series of thoughtful questions, David gave me an opportunity to talk about the Community College of Baltimore County’s unique approach to operating and succeeding in spite of COVID-19. In our conversation, David and I ran the gamut from employing measures to keep the college open to supporting students throughout the entire pandemic, to connecting with community partners to aid at-risk students.  One of the most important of these strategies was CCBC’s tuition-free initiative, our own version of a College Promise program.  Pooling together $35 million from all available funds, for each of the past two years, CCBC has been able to support 85% of its students with either full or partial scholarships.

In the spring of 2020 when the pandemic first interrupted our lives, CCBC had 15,000 students in regular credit programs working towards degrees.  By late April, 4,200 of those students had withdrawn.  Largely low income and minority, these students lacked technology or the skill to use it, or had no Wi-Fi or home environment conducive to study.  So, even before that semester ended, we made a tough — and some thought a foolish — decision, that we were going to work to remain fully open for the students who needed us to deliver on-site instruction.  CCBC is one of the few two- or four-year colleges in the country who remained fully open to serve students both remotely and on site.  We did this because when you live your mission, and you love your mission,  you try to do whatever you can to ensure the success of all students.

Since June 2020, if you walked on any of our campuses, you would have seen students who were in need of access to resources studying in-person in classrooms all across our college campuses.  If we had not remained open, these students would have been shut out of any opportunity to study and learn during this dark time.  We believe that working to turn this risk into a reality is the best manifestation of the college’s commitment to our equity agenda.   Many of us were here in person — in the classroom and in all support and administrative offices — for these on site students.   I am grateful to David Pluviose and Diverse magazine for giving me an opportunity to celebrate the immense commitment to student success made by faculty and staff throughout this challenging time.  As we all know, good words expressing good deeds are not enough.  What matters is committing to taking “actions that matter.”  That decision made all the difference for the roughly 8,000 students for whom remote learning at CCBC was simply not possible.

I encourage you to listen to the full podcast.