ANNAPOLIS -- Adding their voices to the budgetary blues, University of Maryland supporters yesterday pleaded with the legislature to find money to preserve the College Park campus' educational prominence.
In a carefully orchestrated presentation that included appearances by former Gov. Marvin Mandel, a congressman and the former director of central intelligence, university officials argued that College Park may be losing its battle to become a foremost public institution.
The pitch was made even as Senate leaders are trying to round up votes for a tax increase to balance next year's budget.
"It's important to get that message to the legislators," said Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, told the crowd from College Park.
"I think we all have signed on" to improving College Park, said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, D-Baltimore. "Now we have to get the money -- and the votes."
University President William Kirwan recounted College Park's rise and fall since 1988, when the legislature agreed to boost it into the top rank of public universities. Money from the state allowed it to attract top students and faculty. But recession-induced cuts have meant the elimination of some course offerings, layoffs for part-time instructors and shorter library hours.
"I think there is a sense of a loss of momentum that I worry about at the university," Mr. Kirwan said.
Joining Mr. Kirwan were Stansfield Turner, the former director of central intelligence and now a professor of public affairs at the university; Mr. Mandel, a longtime university booster; and Rep. Tom McMillen, D-Md.-4th, a College Park alumnus and basketball hero.
Continued reductions in state assistance would endanger the university's ability to attract the best faculty and students, Mr. Turner said.
State aid to College Park has actually declined since it peaked at $225 million in 1990.
Budget cuts this year left the state's contribution at $203 million. Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget for the coming year would allocate the university $212 million.