Preserve college funding, governor urges

Glendening exhorts educators to prevent major cuts by successor

October 16, 2002|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Gov. Parris N. Glendening rallied higher education leaders yesterday to prevent his successor from "balancing the budget on the backs of Maryland's colleges and universities."

Speaking to several hundred friendly representatives of public and private colleges, the governor called for a campaign to "maintain the momentum" established in his nearly eight years in office, during which his administration increased higher education budgets by 65 percent.

"We have to shift thinking so people understand that higher education is necessary, not discretionary," the governor said to warm applause.

He was keynote speaker at what has become an annual conference sponsored by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Glendening acknowledged that the talk yesterday was his last to an audience of Maryland's college presidents and other executives.

He said he hoped a group would be formed to promote higher education funding, and offered a motto for the campaign: "Think Maryland. Think Higher Education."

The state faces a general fund budget deficit of $1.7 billion, and Glendening said he was aware that cutting higher education budgets would be tempting to the new governor because such funding isn't tied to a formula.

"Higher education shapes our culture as a thriving economic and civil society," Glendening said, and "it should be the last thing to be cut, not the first."

Speaking on the University of Maryland campus where he taught government and politics for nearly three decades, Glendening said his commitment to a "major, sustained increase" in college and university funding was one of his proudest accomplishments as governor. The educators presented him with a trophy and medallion as parting gifts.

In an interview after the speech, Glendening said he believed the Democratic candidate, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, is the best choice to sustain his higher education policies, "but I'd like to get beyond personalities and see a permanent political culture that values higher education for its own sake. North Carolina is a good example."

Glendening said state funding for higher education needs to be tied to formulas so that budgets are protected from year-to-year fluctuations.

"You have to keep the momentum," he said. "In a year or two of cuts when the economy turns sour, you lose a decade of progress."

The governor also called for new revenue sources like the $1.3 billion pumped into elementary and secondary education as a result of the Thornton Commission recommendations.

He said his personal plans for the future are in flux.

National and international environmental groups have approached him, Glendening said, as have several "higher education institutions who think, believe it or not, that I might have something to offer."

He added: "I am not going to be among the homeless in Annapolis."

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