Campus building projects to get additional funding

Glendening declines to give figures, other information

November 04, 1999|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Gov. Parris N. Glendening told a gathering of Maryland higher education leaders yesterday that there is major additional money coming for campus building projects, but he would not say how much or for which buildings.

Speaking to a conference on the future of higher education in the state, Glendening said he had planned to announce the specific figures but had been talked out of it by his press office.

"It will be a very, very striking increase" in funding, Glendening said. "This is what is known as a teaser."

"We did not want anything to detract from the message he was delivering," said Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill of the decision not to release the funding figures. "We wanted people to focus on his vision for the future of higher education instead of a dollar amount."

Morrill said the details of the funding, part of next year's state budget, will be announced in December. He confirmed that Glendening will not necessarily follow the building priorities already approved by the University System of Maryland and the Maryland Higher Education Commission, putting some projects ahead of others that have been planned.

Yesterday's conference was organized by the commission in response to a bill passed by the General Assembly last session that tinkers with the governance of state schools. The legislation called for the commission to come up with a new overall higher education plan that will be used to determine the mission of the state's institutions and to determine spending priorities.

"I wanted to hear from people outside of higher education, to get them talking to people in the system," said state education secretary Patricia S. Florestano of the conference. "I hear from people in higher education all the time."

Florestano said work on the new plan began last summer. It is due in April.

Glendening opened the conference, saying the process of developing the new plan is "an opportunity to prioritize new investments in higher education.

"The new state plan will tell us what Maryland's priorities are and help determine how we allocate funds for higher education. Of course, along with increased funding goes increased accountability. And this is where you will see the biggest changes in this plan -- increased accountability and increased responsibility."

Glendening noted that when he was a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, he saw the effect of one such accountability measure that called on professors to fill out weekly time slips measuring their "contact time" with students.

"I filled them out once every three months and just checked off, `yes, yes, yes,' " he said. "Some people found that valuable. I didn't. We must go beyond such formulas and begin to make a real correlation between a campus vision, the cost of realizing that vision and the tools to measure success and ensure accountability."

He criticized recent efforts by state education officials to come up with a formula that would fund schools at the level of the 85th percentile of their peer schools, the ones they aspire to emulate, in other states.

"What if I decide that my `peer aspirant' is Bill Gates? Does that mean I get 85 percent of his salary?" he asked. He said funding should be based on vision and accountability rather than such formulas.

He also said that any funding for higher education must take into account his Smart Growth initiative, saying that schools should become "engines of economic vitality, not agents of sprawl."

The daylong conference attracted about 200 people, including the presidents and other officials from most of the state's public and private colleges, universities and community colleges as well as representatives of business and educational groups.

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