Howard Community College recently was awarded an $18,200 state grant to develop a model program to increase the retention of black students.

Walter Bumphus, dean of students, said the BRIDGES program will target 40 full-time black students for intensive tutoring, counseling and networking activities at the Columbia campus.

The first group of 20 students is scheduled to start the program in the February winter session, and the other half will be enrolled in the fall semester, Bumphus said.

Black students make up 13.6 percent of the college's 3,752 students enrolled in credit courses this fall, college officials said. Howard has a tutoring program that provides remedial help for about 200 high-risk students, Bumphus said.

But the BRIDGES program, he said, is specially designed to stem a nationwide trend that has shown a significant drop in number of black students attending and graduating from college. Bumphus said Howard's program will use mentors and provide on-campus jobs for students to encourage them to stay in school and complete their degrees.

A majority of the students expected to participate in the program will be recent graduates of Howard County schools, Bumphus said. Transfer students and high school dropouts who have completed GED requirements also will be included, he said.