Md. colleges banding together in their quest for state dollars Educators hope strategy will help fill their coffers

January 11, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

Leaders of most of Maryland's colleges and universities have agreed to put aside their traditional rivalry during the General Assembly session and instead push for money for all the state's higher education institutions.

Typically, presidents of the community colleges, private campuses and public universities clamor to win support for their schools -- even to the point of belittling their rivals.

But University of Maryland System Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg, at the behest of state Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman a Baltimore Democrat, among others, convened several meetings of the state's college presidents last year to plan a coordinated campaign. He has dubbed the effort "United Voice of Higher Education" and solidified support among college officials for Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposed budget.

"I've spent many years working with the General Assembly," said James D. Tschechtelin, president of Baltimore City Community College. "If you're a delegate or a senator, and you have two groups -- one who's organized and one who's bickering -- you tell the group that's bickering to come back when they're better organized."

Said Ms. Hoffman: "The colleges should be working together rather than fighting among themselves for an ever-shrinking piece from an ever-shrinking pie."

Mr. Glendening's budget calls for a 5 percent increase in funding for primary and secondary education and a 3 percent increase in funding for higher education. Almost all other spending would remain at last year's levels.

Dr. Langenberg's efforts have not received universal support. "I feel that my job is to build an institution and continually push forward the interest of the institution," said Edward T. Lewis, president of St. Mary's College of Maryland. "I'm not much of a joiner, and this didn't seem to me to be particularly productive to join."

Dr. Lewis has been particularly effective in catching the ear of state officials, especially former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, to help his school become a more selective liberal arts college. Along with Morgan State University, St. Mary's is a public campus that is not part of the University of Maryland system.

Other campus chiefs have their patrons, too: state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Democrat from Prince George's County, is a consistent backer of University of Maryland College Park; Del. Howard P. Rawlings, the powerful Baltimore Democrat, champions the state's four historically black campuses -- Morgan State, Coppin State, Bowie State and UM Eastern Shore; and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. looks out for Western Maryland College.

The coalition of colleges has based its drive on statistics showing that the state devotes a relatively small proportion of its budget to higher education compared with other states. Of the 15 states surveyed by the Southern Regional Education Board, Maryland typically rates near the bottom in allocation rates for higher education. That needs to change, Dr. Langenberg said, particularly because the schools had severe budget cuts in the early 1990s.

"We are each concerned about our own little piece of higher education," he said. "But we can all argue with enthusiasm that all higher education needs our priority if Maryland is to succeed."

Private colleges generally have supported public campuses in their quest for state dollars because state spending on private schools is tied to funding levels for the public campuses. In recent years, university presidents in the University of Maryland System have grumbled that the private schools should not get public dollars during financially tight times.

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