January 18, 2007 — Vol. 42, No. 23
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Melvin B. Miller
Editor & Publisher

On understanding the mission of RCC

High school seniors and juniors are now struggling with the challenge of performing at a level for them to be accepted at the colleges of their choice. That is no problem for someone who wants to attend a community college — all one needs is a high school diploma or a GED. Even without that, students can enroll in special programs that will earn them the equivalent of a high school diploma.

This open enrollment policy distinguishes community colleges from four-year universities. But there are also differences within the ranks of two-year institutions. Because the character of one community college may vary substantially from others depending upon the nature of the student body, it is not always appropriate to compare one community college with another.

Recent news reports have been unfairly critical of Roxbury Community College and Bunker Hill Community College. The preponderance of the student body in both schools suffers from academic deficiencies. At RCC, 49 percent of the 789 students enrolling for the first time last fall were required to take developmental courses in language skills and math. Another 18 percent of students for whom English is not their native language had to take English as a Second Language (ESL) courses.

Consequently, 67 percent of RCC’s 2006 freshman class had some kind of academic impediment to overcome. In the fall of 2005, 72 percent of students entering RCC with a Boston public high school diploma had academic deficiencies. The circumstances at Bunker Hill were similar.

Although the tuition for a full-time 12-credit program at RCC was only $1,419 for the fall semester, 82 percent of the students were approved for financial aid. For students at RCC who are academically and financially challenged, success does not come quickly. Only 6.3 percent of the students are able to complete the normal two-year program in three years. For many, educational success is a 10-year marathon.

The record is more encouraging for students who are capable of handling college level work when they enter RCC. More than 50 percent of this group either graduate or transfer to a four-year college in four years. However, that group is a small percentage of the entering class.

No institution is beyond criticism, but deficient media attacks on RCC create the wrongful impression that the college is not up to the task of educating its students. This only serves to discourage the enrollment of some prospective students who would benefit from the experience.

The value of restraint

Tom Finneran was once arguably the most powerful politician in all of Massachusetts. Now, after deciding to plead guilty to a federal obstruction of justice charge in order to avoid imprisonment, his reputation has fallen precipitously. Today, the former Speaker of the state House of Representatives is a convicted felon.

At first, Finneran was dismissive of the 2002 lawsuit brought by the Black Political Task Force, Boston VOTE and the statewide Latino organization ¿Oíste?, among others. The suit charged that Finneran had unconstitutionally gerrymandered the redistricting process to diminish the political clout of black voters. According to his lawyer, Richard Egbert, the former Speaker felt importuned by the lawsuit, and lied under oath out of pique.

For this one indiscretion, Finneran is paying dearly. He was fined $25,000 by the court. He was forced to resign from his $416,000-a-year job as president of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Council. The state Retirement Board is considering whether he should forfeit his $31,000 annual state pension. And as a felon, he might lose his license to practice law.

Finneran is fortunate not to be a resident of Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Virginia or Wyoming — in those 11 states, felons are not allowed to vote.

This is a heavy price to pay for an unguarded moment of anger. Young black males should learn from this — there are high costs for losing control of one’s anger.


I may not do it in two years, but I know that I’ll finish, no matter how long it takes.”

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