More state residents selecting colleges in Maryland, report finds

One-year increase nearly reverses losses in attendance since 1991

July 23, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

The Maryland brain drain may be slowing to a trickle, according to the results of a study released yesterday by the state's Higher Education Commission.

The study found a sharp one-year increase in the number of Maryland residents attending Maryland colleges -- two-year and four-year, public and private -- in the 2001-2002 school year. A total of 222,630 Maryland residents enrolled in state colleges last year, almost 13,000 more, or about 6 percent, than did the year before.

For years, state educators and lawmakers have fretted about the high number of Marylanders who left the state for college -- and often didn't return after graduation. Between 1991 and 1998, the state saw a decrease of about 15,000 state residents attending Maryland colleges.

That trend appears to have reversed, said John Sabatini, the commission's assistant secretary for academic affairs.

"With increased funding from the governor and the legislature, our public four-year colleges and universities have been able to develop more competitive programs," Sabatini said.

Also contributing to the reversal, commission officials said, might be new state college savings programs and merit-based financial aid programs, such as the HOPE scholarships, which offer families incentives to stay in-state for college.

At the same time, commission officials noted, part of the increase can be attributed to the overall growth in the number of Maryland residents attending college, whether in-state or out-of-state. This is a result of the demographic blip known as the "baby boom echo" and of the poor job market, which has led many to add to their academic credentials while waiting for a turnaround.

The state's community colleges, in particular, saw a significant increase in enrollment in the past school year, especially among part-time students, said Michael Keller, the commission's director of research. The number of state residents attending two-year colleges -- who make up nearly half of all Maryland residents enrolled at state campuses -- increased by nearly 7,400 last year, or 8 percent.

"People are looking for additional training, and Maryland community colleges are working very hard to create programs that will appeal to part-time students," Keller said.

Showing the largest increase in state resident enrollment among four-year institutions was the University of Maryland, College Park. Its freshman class last year had 2,600 state residents -- nearly 300 more than the year before. Among private colleges, the Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College and the College of Notre Dame all saw large increases in in-state residents in their freshman classes.

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