The chancellor of the University of Maryland System held open the possibility of merging state campuses in the Baltimore area yesterday, but he said he wants to see more compelling evidence of the benefits before he puts the idea back on the agenda.
A merger of the university's professional schools in Baltimore with the University of Maryland Baltimore County was laid to rest 19 months ago by University of Maryland regents after an extensive study by a consultant. It was resurrected by the 12-member Maryland Higher Education Commission in a statewide education plan approved yesterday.
"I think the regents would be quite willing to do that [revisit a merger], but the regents would also appreciate an understanding of what may have changed since a couple years ago," the chancellor, Donald N. Langenberg, said. "That's not clear from the statewide plan," he said.
He also that said sparing the University of Maryland at College Park from budget cuts -- another commission recommendation -- would have "decimated some or all of the other institutions of the system." While there is no question that the regents are committed to funding College Park improvements, the chancellor said, "It takes a substantial amount of time to realign priorities for a system as big as this one." The university budget is $1.5 billion.
Dr. Langenberg applauded other parts of the new statewide plan for higher education, calling it bold and innovative.
The blueprint, approved yesterday, calls for targeting resources to goals established by a 1988 law reorganizing higher education. These include building up College Park and historically black institutions as well as improving undergraduate education statewide. It also includes scholarship reform and a new funding formula for community colleges designed to hold down tuition.
J. Henry Butta, commission chairman, said the blueprint represented the informed opinion of the only statewide panel speaking for the consumers of higher education.
"It is statewide in scope. It is comprehensive. It is controversial," Mr. Butta said. The commission's role, he said, is "to alert our friends in higher education of the dangers of doing too little and moving too slowly."