$700 million should be a breeze Campaign: The University System of Maryland should be able to meet its fund-raising goal easily, considering how many alumni are in the state.

The Education Beat

October 26, 1997|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

IF THE UNIVERSITY System of Maryland can't raise $700 million in five years -- the goal of the campaign it announced last week -- it should be taken to the woodshed and spanked.

True, the university doesn't get a "The" with a capital "T" in front of its name, as in The Johns Hopkins University, which is in the middle of its own $900-million fund drive.

But consider the university system's impact in sheer numbers: One of every 17 Marylanders -- more than 300,000 in all -- attends, works for or holds a degree from one of USM's 11 campuses or two research centers.

Virtually every public elementary and high school in the state has a USM graduate on its faculty. Every hospital, most dentists' offices, many businesses, the General Assembly, the governor's office, law offices from Salisbury to Oakland, biotechnology firms, farms, research parks, prison security staffs, social work offices, symphony orchestras and museums -- all are heavily infiltrated by the University of Maryland.

USM encompasses, among others, Maryland's two law schools, its only public medical school and agricultural college, three of its four historically black colleges and its premier schools of journalism, nursing, social work and hotel management.

Among its benefactors are chicken magnates, baseball team owners, patrons of the arts, bank presidents and enough CEO's to pack a boardroom. Perhaps only the state's electric and telephone utilities have a greater statewide presence.

So it should be easy for USM to raise $700 million in five years.

And yet .

Yet there's still that flash of insecurity, that feeling that Maryland isn't quite in the league of Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia and North Carolina, where higher education has more cachet than it does here.

There's that nasty reality that this fund drive is necessitated by stingy state support during the 1990s.

Among the silly reasons for removing the "State" from Towson State University this year was one sensible one: Only 29 percent of Towson's $146 million budget comes from state subsidies. The system becomes more and more "private" each year, which is the argument that fund-raisers will throw back at those who say they "give at the office" when they pay state taxes.

There's also the fact that the level of alumni giving has been disgraceful at some of USM's campuses. Only 7 percent of College Park's graduates give regularly; only 12 percent of Towson's do.

Until the recession of the early '90s, the university didn't feel the need to beat the philanthropic bushes. Now it has to.

Towson and Coppin State College have another liability: Their alumni, most of whom until recently have been teachers, have not had the bucks to give major gifts to dear old alma mater.

Coppin, for example, has a goal of $3 million over the five years. Towson's goal is a modest $17.5 million, compared with College Park's $350 million. But officials at Coppin and Towson point out that their programs are much more diversified than they were 40 years ago. And teaching is no longer a bottom-of-the-barrel profession financially.

The USM campaign will put heavy pressure on the campus presidents, some of whom have reorganized their administrations to devote as much as 50 percent of their time to raising money.

Coppin's 27-year president, Calvin Burnett, who had told The Education Beat two years ago that fund raising was his least favorite activity, now says he's "getting into it."

Says Burnett: "I've learned that when I get a rejection, I don't feel bad for more than 15 minutes afterward."

Barney has new friend at Microsoft at a price

Sick and tired of Barney? So are a lot of people, but it's getting worse.

This fall's episodes of PBS' "Barney & Friends" carry an encoded signal from (whom else?) Microsoft that allows the computer giant's "ActiMates Interactive Barney" toy to interact with the program.

According to a news release,the ActiMates Barney "is a plush character that provides parents with an innovative early-learning system for children ages 2 to 5." The interactive Barney sells for $109.95, but you'll also need the "ActiMates TV Pack" for $64.95. Remember when PBS stood for Poor But Striving?

Barney and his PBS friends from "Sesame Street," by the way, are subjected to a drubbing in a new book, "Kinderculture: The Corporate Construction of Childhood" (Westview Press, 270 pages, $19.50).

"These programs may completely ignore everything we know about child development and developmentally appropriate teaching and learning," writes Western Carolina University Professor Eleanor Blair Hilty. "But hey, who cares? The kids seem to love it." Park School opened the $4 million Morton K. Blaustein Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology on the Brooklandville campus yesterday. Funded in part by a $1.5 million gift from the Blaustein family, the center includes science labs, classrooms, offices and a lecture hall wired for 84 laptop computers.

Park was the second independent school in a week to open a new building. On Monday, the Waldorf School of Baltimore dedicated $4 million in classrooms and office space in Coldspring New Town.

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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