Kirwan wants campuses to consider selling or renting real estate holdings

August 27, 2004|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. Kirwan wants the state's public colleges and universities to review their real estate holdings with an eye toward possibly selling or renting them.

Some campuses already have sold or leased property to make money, but there is no systemwide process for making such decisions, officials said.

"This is simply taking a look at whether or not our campuses have property that they are not using nor intend to use in the near future, and whether or not there's a better use for those assets," said David H. Nevins, chairman of a regents committee that will consider Kirwan's proposal Monday.

"Nothing at the moment is particularly on the table or off the table," Nevins said.

Kirwan's recommendation is the latest of his "efficiency and effectiveness initiatives," which he is presenting to the board regents. If the finance committee approves the recommendation, as expected, the full board would consider it next month.

Although Kirwan's proposal would not have an immediate effect on the system's revenue, it could provide income that higher education officials have been seeking to offset state budget cuts.

"There's been more focus on [finding new revenue] during the past few years," said Anne Moultrie, a spokeswoman for Kirwan.

The system absorbed a 14 percent state cut last year, which led to tuition increases averaging 11 percent across the 11-campus system. For some students, that meant paying as much as $1,000 more a year.

Nevins said there are no properties the system is targeting. The idea is to develop a process for examining its real estate assets.

George Cathcart - a spokesman at the University of Maryland, College Park - said that campus is seeking state approval for the sale of an undeveloped lot, called the Buddingdon South property, that a builder wants to buy for more than $1 million. The campus also expects to realize substantial revenue from the development of a research park near the College Park Metro station.

And the University of Maryland Eastern Shore has been leasing a 2.5-acre greenhouse to a Baltimore company.

Nevins said the goal is to ensure all campuses use resources efficiently, not just in tough economic times. "It is something that prudent management would suggest that we do once every several years," he said.

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