Saturday Mailbox


December 20, 2003

Investments in universities boost the state

Our goal in funding the University System of Maryland should be to provide the best education we can afford, not the cheapest we can find. Alec MacGillis' short-sighted article "Critics say colleges need budget lesson" (Dec. 13) misses that point.

Significant funding increases have been provided to the university system during the past decade. The relevant question is, "What did we get for that investment?"

Money spent on education rarely produces the successful outcomes evident at the University of Maryland, College Park. The increased spending of the last decade has coincided with a steady rise in national rankings for the university along with dramatic improvements in the qualifications of the students enrolling at the school.

Faculty members have also received national recognition for their achievements.

Even during difficult budget times, we should seek to preserve these advances, for they are an asset to the state.

Mr. MacGillis' article mentions many suggested cuts from the university budget, such as eliminating the biochemistry master's program, limiting the purchase of expensive science equipment and halting construction of new buildings.

But consider the long-term effect of those recommendations. The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development predicts that the bio-science industry will be a central component of Maryland's future economy. Are the nearly 35-year-old biology labs at College Park adequate to educate the research scientists and technicians who will fuel that development?

No taxpayer wants to see his or her money wasted, and university spending should be scrutinized. However, we must recognize that higher education is a nationally competitive field. Schools vie for top faculty and students, and that competition has caused tuition increases to outpace inflation across the country.

Administrators' salaries may be high, but these administrators have provided us with a public university ranked in the top 20 in the nation.

At last, Maryland has a public university worthy of the best students in the country. Let us find a way to maintain that advantage.

Joanne Thompson


Aiming for dead last in higher education?

It would be good if Marylanders and their political leaders could make up their minds about what they expect of the University System of Maryland.

The 1988 law establishing the system defines its goal as "to achieve and sustain national eminence." The system and its institutions have made enormous progress toward that goal during the last decade and a half.

Meanwhile, recent data show that, although Maryland ranks fourth among the 50 states in per capita disposable personal income, only eight states now rank below Maryland in the portion of that wealth invested in higher education.

Some critics apparently think Maryland should aim for dead last ("Critics say colleges need budget lesson," Dec. 13). The way things have been going, that goal is well within reach.

Or perhaps Marylanders really do believe they can get something for nothing.

Donald N. Langenberg


The writer is a former chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

Act to save the bay, before it's too late

All scientific studies reveal that excessive nitrogen discharge from sewage treatment plants are a major cause of the decline of the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The technology to reduce the amount of nitrogen discharge is readily available, although it is costly. And many of us who attended the governor's conference at George Mason University on Dec. 9 are in agreement with the views of Tom Horton: "Money for the bay is no tax -- it's an investment, an obligation, a privilege" ("Still missing opportunities," Dec. 12).

Everyone excretes waste, and it must be treated to protect everyone's health. And the health of the bay may be nearly as important, because a healthy bay becomes an economic engine that provides thousands of jobs for a multitude of businesses that generate many millions of dollars.

The state cannot afford to lose this national treasure.

Most everyone is aware of the fiscal problems of the state and federal government, so it is up to every citizen to put up a reasonable amount of money.

And I urge the governor to take immediate action before it becomes too late or too expensive to save the bay.

William G. Huppert

Perry Hall

Growth isn't creating enough new jobs

U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans' column touting President Bush's economic plan and the jobs created over the past four months ignored several important points ("Job plan is working -- now let's do more," Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 11).

Mr. Evans notes that 328,000 new jobs have been created in the past four months, an average of 82,000 a month during this economic upturn. What he does not say is that the economy needs to generate 150,000 jobs per month just to accommodate population growth and the influx of new workers into the economy.

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