SALISBURY -- The Eastern Shore's five colleges and universities are joining forces in a plan their leaders say will increase educational options for students, eliminate duplication of programs and improve economic development efforts in a region that is just beginning to attract high-tech employers.
With a combined enrollment of more than 13,000, the schools -- Salisbury State University, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Washington College, Wor-Wic Community College and Chesapeake College -- see almost unlimited opportunities for sharing faculty, offering joint degree programs and providing specialized training.
"What we'd like to think is that we can take care of all the educational needs of people on the Eastern Shore," Salisbury State President William C. Merwin said yesterday. "Obviously, we think that the sum is larger than the individual parts; that's the driving force."
Planning began about 18 months ago and continued through a series of meetings with the presidents of the schools, Merwin said. The logistics of admissions, registration and scheduling are to be worked out, but the consortium plans to build a center at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills.
The community college's Queen Anne's County campus at U.S. 50 and Route 213 offers a central location, particularly for residents of the Upper Shore, which state higher education officials say is under-served.
"The Eastern Shore has a range of strong institutions, but the idea is that the schools bring programs to wherever there is a need," said Jeff Welsh, a spokesman for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
The program will be administered by Hal Jopp, director of collaborative programs at Salisbury State and UMES.
Since 1990, the two schools have offered dual degrees that pair biology and environmental science and combine sociology and social work. Two years ago, the Lower Shore universities began offering a joint master's degree in teaching.
"In these programs, students complete their basic course requirements at their home school, then take course work in the dual major at both and graduate with two degrees -- and they only pay tuition at their home school," Jopp said. "We think that this improves their chances for jobs or graduate school."
With both Salisbury State and Washington College offering graduate programs in English, psychology and history, officials see potential for cooperation between the public university and the elite arts and sciences college.
Another potential model for future programs, Jopp said, is the collaborative mechanical engineering program offered by Salisbury State and the University of Maryland, College Park.
The cooperative program in mechanical engineering came in direct response, officials say, to requests by a number of microwave manufacturing companies that have located in the Salisbury area.
"I don't think we can overemphasize the economic development opportunities we could realize through this kind of effort," said Stuart Bounds, president of Chesapeake College. "We believe the potential is really limitless."