Making higher education a priority State aid: Governor Glendening must make far greater financial commitment to Maryland's public colleges and universities.

October 13, 1997

NOW THAT REGENTS have agreed to limit tuition increases to 4 percent a year at the University System of Maryland's 13 institutions, it is up to Gov. Parris N.Glendening to boost government support of higher education in Maryland. It would be the best possible investment in this state's future growth.

The governor, as well as legislative leaders, protested higher tuition increases they felt might make a college education unaffordable for some students. That protest persuaded the regents to pledge to hold future down increases. But it leaves a $4.2 million gap in UM's budget plans, a gap the governor now has a moral obligation to close.

Mr. Glendening should do much more.

Public higher education has not been a priority for him. He did promise to raise state aid enough to cover inflationary costs each year, but that hasn't been enough to keep UM from losing ground to peer institutions.

Since 1990, state aid as a percent of UM's budget has dropped one-third, from 45 percent to 30 percent. To make up that difference today would cost $300 million. Clearly, Mr. Glendening cannot restore that huge chunk of lost aid in one year. What he can do is make a long-term commitment to this goal.

A good first step would be devoting a portion of the state's large surplus to some of UM's ambitious technology projects. The governor also should give UM a major boost in operating funds: The university system wants an extra 4.2 percent; Mr. Glendening can do much better.

It will take far more state money to attract the best faculty to UM schools, which is the key ingredient in raising the caliber of education on these campuses. It also will require a far greater state investment in technology and equipment to keep Maryland's public institutions on the cutting edge of research and entrepreneurial ventures.

With the recession of the early 1990s behind us, Mr. Glendening must become a champion of our state colleges and universities. They hold vast potential as economic development engines. But that won't happen without a new spirit in Annapolis toward funding these institutions.

No longer can universities be relegated to a secondary position at budget time. The future well-being of this state depends on the governor's ability to make that change.

Pub Date: 10/13/97

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