As he departs, Kirwan renews his call for more college aid

May 06, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

In one of his final speeches before stepping down as president of the University of Maryland, College Park, William E. Kirwan renewed his call for more state aid to higher education.

Kirwan, who will assume the presidency of Ohio State University this summer, told 200 Montgomery County business and civic leaders yesterday that Central Maryland can become a technological powerhouse like California's Silicon Valley and North Carolina's Research Triangle Park if it matches the financial commitment those states have made to their universities.

Kirwan said a region with a strong information technology base "offers the Holy Grail of economic development: It is environmentally clean, labor-intensive and totally dependent on [a] highly skilled work force."

Top-ranked schools such as the University of North Carolina spend almost $2,300 a year more per student than is spent at the university's flagship campus, Kirwan said.

But, he said, to match the support provided to those top-ranked universities, which Maryland aspires to match in quality, the College Park campus would need an additional $63.2 million this year. The university will receive about $276 million from the state this school year -- 30 percent of the budget of College Park, one of the 11 campuses in the University System of Maryland.

Kirwan, 59, surprised colleagues and state lawmakers when he announced in January that he would be leaving the campus where he had spent 33 years, rising from an assistant math professor to president in 1989.

In announcing his departure, Kirwan made it clear that he had been troubled by what he called the "long-term decline" in state funding of the university. The university's budget was cut 20 percent during the recession of the early 1990s, and Kirwan was forced to eliminate a college and raise tuition steadily.

After Kirwan announced his resignation, state lawmakers approved the $276 million budget for College Park, a $24 million increase that included a $7 million grant to help address the gap between College Park and high-quality universities in other states.

Yesterday, Kirwan urged business leaders to push for the best possible public university to help ensure the future economic success of the region.

The Baltimore-Washington corridor could become a world leader in the development of information technology, he said, by building on what it has: cutting-edge companies; a large number of colleges and research centers; the needs of the federal government.

Kirwan said, "Our region is a world leader in data-base development and management. The information people want is, to a large extent, located within the Baltimore-Washington corridor."

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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