Governor to fund high-tech program $1.5 million would help increase Md. colleges' technology graduates

January 10, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening will ask the General Assembly for $1.5 million to launch an initiative to increase the ranks of students in high-technology programs at Maryland universities.

The governor informed the Board of Visitors of the University of Maryland, College Park Thursday of his decision to fund the program, which his administration previously had decided to defer.

The funding falls short of the $2 million originally sought by the three universities that proposed it but exceeds the $1.2 million request approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

The program, known as the Maryland Applied Information Technology Initiative (MAITI), has been a pet project of William E. Kirwan, the departing president of the flagship College Park campus.

Kirwan said he was "thrilled" that the governor has decided to request the money.

MAITI (pronounced "mighty") is intended to double the number of Maryland graduates specializing in information technology by 2003. Proponents have described the program as an effort to ensure that Maryland businesses can find an abundance of technologically trained employees in the state.

The program originated as a joint proposal of UMCP; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and the Johns Hopkins University. Under the universities' proposal, MAITI would eventually expand to a program with an annual budget of $40 million in public and private funds.

Much of the money would go toward expanding information technology programs at Maryland colleges and universities.

The initiative also would involve business leaders in curriculum design, offer continuing education for Maryland companies' employees and develop programs to train teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The MAITI program landed in the political arena this week when Glendening's Democratic primary challenger, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann, charged in a news release excoriating Glendening's record on higher education that the governor had "stymied" Kirwan's technology initiative.

Told of the governor's decision yesterday, Rehrmann dismissed the reversal as "too little, too late to have helped keep Brit Kirwan here."

Kirwan acknowledged that the original decision to defer the initiative's launch was "a major disappointment for me." But he said the MAITI decision was not the reason he recently announced his intention to leave College Park to become president of Ohio State University.

The decision to provide the funds apparently was made too late to include them in the fiscal 1999 budget Glendening will present this month. He told the board the request would come in his supplemental budget.

Judi Scioli, Glendening's press secretary, said the governor liked the concept of the program from the start but that there were questions that could not be resolved in time to be included in the main budget.

"He wasn't going to sign off on it unless it was going to work," said Scioli.

Glendening met with the Board of Visitors to brief members on his four-year, $634.5 million program to increase state spending on higher education. The board has been vocal in pressing the governor to provide more resources for the College Park campus.

After the meeting, board Chairman John N. Lauer expressed approval of the governor's package.

"He's answered every one of our concerns fully to our satisfaction," said Lauer, a University of Maryland alumnus and chief executive of Oglebay & Norton, a shipping company in Cleveland.

Pub Date: 1/10/98

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