Plan for increasing high-tech education in colleges advances State panel gives tentative OK, chides sponsors as elitist

November 13, 1997|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

Maryland's higher education coordinating body conditionally approved a plan yesterday to greatly increase the number of students prepared for high-technology jobs -- but lectured the authors for being elitist in their outlook.

In requesting a $1.2 million budget from Gov. Parris N. Glendening to get the program started, the Maryland Higher Education Commission demanded that the four research universities sponsoring the plan include other schools.

"You need a bigger table," said Terry L. Lierman of Montgomery County, one of several members of the panel who scolded

William E. Kirwan, president of the University of Maryland, College Park.

The budget item, which goes to Glendening today with the commission's $875 million higher education budget request for next year, would launch the Maryland Applied Information Technology Initiative (MAITI), written by College Park; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and the Johns Hopkins University.

Kirwan, in an impassioned plea for commission approval, said as many as 10,000 jobs requiring high-technology skills are going unfilled in Maryland. He said the four universities behind MAITI planned all along to include community colleges, other state universities, independent schools and historically black schools such as Morgan State University.

"Believe me, there is an urban focus in this plan," Kirwan said. But Anne O. Emery, a commissioner from Baltimore, said, "What I see at the table is the big four. What I don't see are the urban colleges and universities."

Former Prince George's County Del. Kay Bienen, representing the state's 18 community colleges, also criticized the plan. "As far as I know, I'm the only person in the community college system who has a copy," she said.

Several members of the commission said they were reluctant to delay the program because the need is urgent and because Virginia is beginning a similar plan.

The unanimous vote yesterday amounted to a compromise. Money for the first phase of the program would be released to the commission, then to MAITI after the university officials satisfied the commission staff that the plan was more "inclusive."

The commission staff reduced the first MAITI installment from a requested $2 million to $1.2 million. But Kirwan said the money from the state would be used to leverage additional private funding.

Eventually, the budget would increase to $40 million a year in public and private funds. By 2003, Maryland would double the number of graduates specializing in information technology and triple the number of students training in high-tech courses, Kirwan said.

After the meeting at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, Kirwan said he was "extremely pleased."

"We never intended to exclude anyone," Kirwan said, "and I believe we can live with what happened today."

The next step is Glendening's. Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for the governor, said last night that Glendening "is enthusiastic about the proposal, but it's one of many he has to consider. He can't submit to a specific dollar figure until he draws up his budget for the General Assembly."

Kirwan said, "It's in the governor's hands now. We hope he sees the urgency of the proposal."

Pub Date: 11/13/97

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