Excellence costs money UM fund-raising: Goal is $700 million to attract top-quality faculty and to stay on the cutting edge of new technologies.

October 26, 1997

RAISING private funds for their public university is relatively new for Marylanders. Unlike many other states, especially in the Midwest, Maryland's state university didn't get seriously into fund-raising until 12 years ago. While donations have risen dramatically from $16 million to $112 million in that time, it will take much more to create a great higher-education system.

Thus, the University of Maryland's $700 million campaign was born. Quietly, the first $225 million has been raised, mainly from foundations. That still leaves nearly a half-billion dollars UM will be seeking from its friends and 250,000 graduates.

It may seem ironic that a public university is scrambling to attract private donations. Isn't the state of Maryland supposed to pay the bills for its 13-campus university system?

That's the way it used to work. But over the past decade, governors and legislatures have actively sought to reduce the level of state support at the University of Maryland. Fully half of UM's budget came from the state a decade ago; now it makes up just 30 percent of UM revenue.

Filling the gap hasn't been easy. Tuitions and fees soared on many UM campuses to the point that politicians and students rebelled this year. As a result, future tuition increases will be capped at a rate barely above inflation. Much more money must come from grants and gifts.

The UM drive aims to take in $100 million a year in private gifts through 2002. Most campus presidents now will be devoting up to half their time to fund-raising.

The money is needed to supplement lagging state support, and without it UM cannot break in to the ranks of top tier universities. A state study shows the No. 1 requirement for quality education is an outstanding faculty. The only realistic way to achieve that goal is sharply higher salaries.

And without considerable sums of money, it is impossible for universities to take advantage of technological opportunities. High-tech equipment is not cheap. Nor are the buildings to house this equipment.

Compared with other university fund drives, UM's $700 million target is modest: Johns Hopkins is into a $900 million campaign; Penn State has a $800 million goal; Virginia's goal may be raised to $1 billion; UCLA and USC in California have $1 billion-plus goals, and both Yale and Harvard have completed drives, raising $1.5 billion and $2.1 billion respectively.

Our state university system is looking for Marylanders who care about top-caliber higher education and are willing to give it a financial boost. There is no better way to invest in the future of this state and its young adults.

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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