Crunch Time on Campus

October 19, 1990

If other state officials were as aggressive as Towson State's President Hoke L. Smith in coming to grips with Maryland's pending budget deficit (which could run as high as $400 million), the Schaefer administration would have a far easier time reducing government spending. Dr. Smith is taking the prudent and conservative view that times are bound to get tougher and that the sooner budgetary reductions are made at Towson State, the easier it will be over the long haul.

That's why Dr. Smith not only embraced the governor's order to curb expenses by 6 percent but went one step beyond, lopping off 12 percent. This is wise preventive medicine. These cuts may be inconvenient for students and faculty to adjust to, but they could well avoid painful layoffs later.

Towson State has reduced hours at its library computer room and has stopped buying new books. Other state colleges are freezing all purchases, delaying faculty hires and increasing the teaching load for full-time faculty as the number of part-timers is cut. This could translate into larger class sizes, reduced on-campus services and a more limited course selection. It isn't ideal, but it is a rational approach to an economic downturn.

Meanwhile, Donald Langenberg, chancellor of the University of Maryland system, wants to come up with a "serious cost-containment" plan that identifies ways to save money without jeopardizing the quality of education on state campuses. With money so tight, now is an ideal time to explore methods for teaching students and conducting post-graduate research that minimizes expenses but improves the caliber of teaching at UM.

Though college educators had been looking forward to major increases in state aid, tumbling tax revenues spell the end of that dream. Instead, the oncoming recession makes this a time for introspection to discover how to make do with less. The campuses that succeed in that endeavor will weather the economic storm with the least amount of damage. They will be the ones in the best shape to renew their growth and development once the recession ends.

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