Morgan fights for course offerings

President objects to similar programs at other state schools

June 27, 2000|By Michael Hill | Michael Hill,SUN STAFF

Morgan State University President Earl Richardson vigorously defended yesterday his school's attempts to block other area colleges from starting programs that he says compete with those on his campus.

Saying that the public higher education field is crowded in the Baltimore area, Richardson contended, "If program offerings are not appropriately coordinated, it will lead to some institutions being wasteful of taxpayers' money and endless conflict.

"That is what you have occurring at this point in time," he said, speaking to a gathering of the school's top officials.

Morgan State has objected to proposals by Towson University, the University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to offer graduate programs in education, business and engineering.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission initially approved the programs at Towson and UB.

But the commission later dropped the creation of the programs when Morgan State's opposing position was backed by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, the panel that is assessing the status of desegregation among Maryland's higher education institutions.

"We approved the programs on the basis that they were not unnecessarily duplicative," MHEC secretary Patricia Florestano said.

"But then the Office of Civil Rights used a new term, saying they could not be `broadly similar,'" Florestano said.

Desegregation

The federal officials said that historically black institutions must be enhanced in the desegregation process and need programs to enable them to attract white students. MHEC urged the schools to come up with cooperative pro- grams.

"All things being equal, if two universities have the same programs, the majority of white students will choose to go to traditionally white institutions and most blacks will go to historically black schools," Richardson said. "What will alter this pattern? Good 'ole money."

Richardson said many of the state's schools with white majority enrollment have been able to offer scholarships to attract black students, but that Morgan State, after trying to meet the needs of its students, does not have funds to attract white enrollment.

Without that, Richardson said, it needs the exclusive programs. He noted that his school's doctoral program in educational administration - which he said would have been duplicated by the program proposed by Towson University - had four white students among the 10 candidates receiving the degree last year.

Exclusivity no guarantee

Those backing an undergraduate major in electrical engineering at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, point out that although Morgan State has that program exclusively, it still has only1 percent white enrollment.

"The strategy hasn't worked," Freeman A. Hrabowski III, UMBC's president, contended. He is supported by Del. Howard P. Rawlings, who backs Morgan State in its battle for exclusivity in graduate programs, but says the small number of whites in its undergraduate engineering program show that UMBC would not be competing for the same students.

Succesful in its mission

Richardson counters that Morgan State has been successful in accomplishing the mission it was given when its engineering school opened in 1986 - increasing the number of African American engineers in the state.

He produced statistics showing the overall decline in electrical engineering graduates in the state - from 368 in 1989 to 275 in 1999 - would have been greater had Morgan State not been instrumental in boosting the number of those degrees going to African Americans - from 27 in 1989 to 73 in 1999.

Noting the decline in the number of electrical engineering graduates at the University of Maryland, College Park and the Johns Hopkins University, Richardson said there is plenty of capacity at those schools for additional students without adding a new program at UMBC.

Richardson reiterated his belief that had Morgan State remained the only university in the Baltimore area as it was in the mid-1960s - without competition from the founding of UMBC, the expansion of what was then Towson State College, and the state's takeover of the University of Baltimore - it would have grown into a diverse campus of about 16,000 students, some 10,000 more than it has now.

"Imagine what a difference that would make to this city, to its government, to its schools," he said. "We are just now reaching where we were in 1972. We have 28 more years of catching up to do. That will take a massive infusion of funds."

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