Panel recommends private funding for Coppin dormitory

School president fears students will be forced to absorb building's cost

June 18, 1999|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

A committee of the Board of Regents recommended yesterday that Coppin State College use private funds to build a dormitory, despite objections from Coppin President Calvin W. Burnett, who said the higher costs would be passed on to students.

A report presented to the finance committee of the regents, who govern the University System of Maryland, showed that a 300-bed residence hall constructed with state bonds would cost students $3,168 to live there for nine months, compared with the $3,557 cost from a privately constructed facility.

Committee chairman Edward Crawford said that the difference was not enough to cause a change in the regents' policy to seek privatization for all building projects that produce revenues such as dormitories.

"It works out to about $40 a month," Crawford said.

But Burnett disagreed, saying, "Even $40 a month is a substantial difference in terms of our student body. I think we have the lowest family income of any institution in the system."

School officials noted a long waiting list for housing at the West Baltimore college, which has one 342-bed facility for its 2,400 undergraduates. Burnett asked the committee in March to approve system bonds for a 500-bed residence hall, but was told to study privatization possibilities and report back.

The study, by the firm Lippman Frizzell and Mitchell, said sufficient demand existed to justify constructing a 300-bed facility during the next two years. Though the lower price of borrowing would make state-financed construction cheaper, the report said private construction "can be pursued without driving student costs substantially beyond their current levels."

However, the report concluded, "If the cost to the Coppin State College student is the most important judgment criterion, the University System revenue bond approach seems to be the more effective financing option for the proposed residence hall development."

Finance committee members emphasized to Burnett that their decision is a recommendation based on the privatization policy and that his objections can be taken up with the full Board of Regents at its meeting next month.

The finance committee also approved a $208 million capital budget for next year that includes an acceleration of several projects, despite the General Assembly's rejection of a $1-per-pack cigarette tax that was to finance the speedup.

The top priority is $1.4 million for the renovation of the School of Law building at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. New buildings at Salisbury State, Bowie State and Frostburg State were also high on the list, along with renovations to the chemistry building at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a $24 million research facility at UMB.

The committee -- and the full board meeting by telephone -- also approved an agreement with Microsoft Corp. that will allow faculty, staff and some students at education institutions statewide to purchase an office software package for $42.

Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg said that the state had to find 100,000 purchasers to secure the agreement at that price, so he put together a consortium of all the private and public institutions, and public school systems in 10 counties, to reach that threshold.

Pub Date: 6/18/99

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