A campus focused on night classes can leave daytime learners in the dark.

Days of discontent for students at UB

October 20, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

As a day student at the University of Baltimore, junior Dannah Dennis has relatively few options. There is no student union to study in, no dorms to visit, not many English literature courses.

"I really wanted to take the Archeology of Language, but it's not offered during the day," she said yesterday. "There's a limit to what classes you can select here if you don't go at night."

Dennis' dilemma is a reflection of UB's role in Maryland's 11-campus public university system. It accepts only upperclassmen and graduate students, and it has concentrated on developing night classes aimed mainly at working adults.

But that means many classrooms and facilities are unused during the day, and it can be hard for students like Dennis to find classes that fit their schedules.

A cost-saving report to be presented to the Board of Regents this week recommends that officials look at UB to see if the system is making the best use of the 5,000-student campus. "In a time of heightened enrollment demand, how can [the system] better use the physical capacity of UB?" asks the report, written by a committee of regents.

Some of the authors say they hope the review will lead to a discussion of whether the university should be merged with another school. In any event, they say, the system should explore ways to bring in more undergraduates and day students.

UB President Robert L. Bogomolny is staunchly opposed to merging his campus with another but says he welcomes discussing ways to improve the school and help it grow. UB is special, he said, because "we have been focusing on the needs of the city by putting a premium on two things: flexibility and quality of education."

He said the school already has plans to grow its enrollment by nearly 1,000 students within a decade, mainly by increasing the number of day students.

"The focus has been on the night program because that's the tradition we've grown in," Bogomolny said. "What we need to think about is ways to be responsive to the state's needs by enlarging the day side."

Unlike at most universities, academic activity picks up during the evening. About 60 percent of the students take night classes, and school officials say classrooms are busiest between 5:30 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.

Under former President H. Mebane Turner, the school developed into a no-frills campus of brown brick buildings clustered around Mount Royal Avenue and Charles Street in upper Mount Vernon. The "career-minded university" offers undergraduate degrees in both the liberal arts and business, as well as various graduate programs. The university is especially well known for its law school, whose graduates include state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

The school has also traditionally been among the state's less expensive. In-state undergraduate students pay about $5,000 this year in tuition, roughly $1,000 less than at the University of Maryland, College Park.

But during the day, the hallways are virtually empty. Some students prefer to leave campus quickly after their classes.

"I have a three-hour break, and I'm going home," said Kyle Steinebach, a third-year student enrolled in the school's joint law and MBA program.

School officials have begun to add more amenities. The university won a legal battle that allowed it to raze the vacant Odorite building at Mount Royal and Maryland avenues and has begun work on a $14 million, glass-front student center at the site.

"This is going to be a cultural hub for the school and the community," said Bogomolny, who says the building will make the school more attractive to day students. Bogomolny also said he hopes the school can hire more professors to teach during the day.

Stacey Brown, an English major, said she has already taken almost every literature course offered during the day but can't sign up for evening classes because she works as a waitress in Columbia.

"The course offerings are great for those who go to school at night," she said. "But during the day, it's a lot harder. You really have to plan ahead."

Bogomolny acknowledged that hiring more professors would take more money. Although the regents' report offered 16 steps the system could take to save $26.6 million next year, he and some other campus presidents say the state also needs to invest in the system.

"If we can figure out creative ways to get through these times, we'll emerge with a better product," he said.

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