Thursday, September 11, 2003

2-year steppingstone to college lost in UC shuffle

Denise Amos
The University of Cincinnati is moving its two-year, associate's degree programs - and its community college students - into its four-year colleges, essentially dissolving University College.

The move follows the closure last year of UC's night school. Those classes for nontraditional students transferred to UC's regular colleges.

UC officials say the moves make the college more efficient and encourages more students to pursue four-year degrees.

"The focus was to have more degree programs ... under fewer administrative umbrellas," said Anthony Perzigian, senior vice president and provost for Baccalaureate and Graduate Education.

Fewer administrators sounds like a good thing.

But not to the Greater Cincinnati NAACP, which Monday warned that the cuts may reduce access for minority students and cause graduation rates to decline.

"There are still serious unanswered questions as to the implications these changes will have for African-American students," the NAACP said.

University College for years has been a landing place for those not accepted in UC's traditional programs. It's been some black students' only avenue to college, said Calvert H. Smith, president of the NAACP and a UC professor.

But there is too much overlap of courses and an increase in "technical programs," Perzigian said. You could get an associate's degree in Business Technology, Social Work Technology or Criminal Justice technology, for instance.

Under the change, those programs fold into UC's Business, Social Work and Criminal Justice programs.

As more students will stay longer, UC makes more. The state pays the college more for a four-year engineering student than for a two-year community college student, Perzigian said.

Smith says that without a community college, many nontraditional or underprepared students will fall through the cracks.

In only a few of UC's four-year programs are African-Americans graduating at comparable rates as whites, Smith said, including the College of Engineering, and the College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services.

Most recent statistics show 57.9 percent of whites and 27.6 percent of blacks getting bachelor's degrees after six years.

There'll be other ways to shore up graduation rates and look after these students, Perzigian says.

Next year, UC will set up the Center for Access and Transition, or CAT, providing reading, writing and math instruction to help students qualify for UC's four-year colleges.

"K-through-12 schools are sending us more and more students who are underprepared," Perzigian said.

"We believe UC's mission should be to maximize ... access to a four-year degree."

But what about students who don't want a four-year degree? After all, only 13.6 percent of UC's four-year students got their bachelor's degree in four years. Only 48.6 percent got it after six years.

I don't believe UC wants to restrict minority students. This year, for instance, it expanded its grants to help CPS graduates get a free ride for tuition and books.

But UC needs to work with the NAACP and others on ways to ensure all its students, not just minority students, stay on track.

E-mail or phone 768-8395

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