Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

February 15, 2003

Aid to colleges pays dividends for the state

We in independent higher education understand and welcome the questions raised in The Sun's article on the Sellinger program ("Md.'s private colleges fear major cut in state aid," Jan. 30). Legislators and citizens should ask those questions; they should be vigilant about ensuring that their investment is a wise one.

We are confident that, upon close examination, they will conclude that the answer is a resounding "yes."

The Sellinger program was established in 1972 on the recommendation of a commission appointed by the governor to evaluate independent higher education. At that time, several private colleges had failed and the University of Baltimore had been converted to a public institution.

The Pear Commission conducted an in-depth analysis of each private institution. After a year of study, the commission concluded that a modest state investment in independent higher education "is in the best interest of the state [and] taxpayers."

Maryland's relatively modest investment in independent higher education is repaid many times over by relieving pressure on public institutions, creating an educated workforce, attracting research dollars and philanthropy and contributing to cultural enrichment and community service.

Although they receive 3.5 percent of the state's investment in higher education, independent institutions award 26 percent of all degrees in Maryland annually, 48 percent of all master's degrees and 40 percent of all doctorates.

And now more than ever, the state needs an efficient and effective system of higher education that uses both public and private resources to support a solution to our fiscal crisis.

Tina M. Bjarekull

Annapolis

The writer is president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association.

Private colleges, private agendas

The Sun's editorial on state funding of private colleges made some valid points but tiptoed around some salient issues ("Don't mess with Sellinger," Feb. 7).

It hinted that some rich institutions could probably stand a reduction in state aid, but did not ask the basic question of why these rich institutions needed public money at all. We base a great deal of our funding of student scholarships on need. Why don't we fund institutions on a similar basis?

If a private college that fills a public need requires temporary financial assistance, then a case may be made for providing temporary help. Currently, however, all private colleges, even those with huge endowments, simply get their cut of public funds year after year, regardless of need.

And how is public funding of private religiously affiliated colleges different from government vouchers for religious primary or secondary schools or government funding for faith-based charities?

Finally, this funding often puts public money in the hands of institutions that act against the public interest.

My community spent three years fighting Loyola College's plans to build an athletic complex in our midst. Loyola got a sweetheart financial deal from the city, despite almost universal opposition to the project from the community, so our level of cynicism was already pretty high. But as we scraped together funds and took off work to fight the project, Loyola, a college with a large endowment, was also being given our tax dollars.

Regardless of how beneficent these institutions are, they remain private and have private agendas. They may merit public help on a case-by-case basis. But until a degree from a state college commands the same respect as a Johns Hopkins University degree, we should spend the public's money on public colleges.

Jim Emberger

Baltimore

Too much homework puts burden on kids

Having three daughters in the Baltimore County public schools, I was interested to hear about all the different strategies employed to "lighten the load" of student backpacks ("Looking to lighten the load at schools," Feb. 4).

These tactics, however, fail to address the real cause. The reason students have to lug these loads is that schools now require more homework in more subjects than ever. This is especially true for students in gifted and talented and similar programs, who receive a punishing amount of work.

The workload affects students physically. It also adds to mental duress as every evening, and every weekend, students face a continuous onslaught of assignments.

As a working professional, I know how I would feel if I had to work every day, evening and weekend. And in the end, family life suffers as schedules and activities are subjugated to homework.

My suggestion is to "lighten the load" by reducing excessive assignments, which would lift the weight off the backs of students and their families.

Robert Unger

Baltimore

Let local groups fill convention center

I was surprised to learn that the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA) is having problems and has met only 18 percent of its annual goal for hotel bookings ("BACVA behind on hotel bookings," Feb. 1).

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