State gives nod to UB-Towson MBA program

Business degree to come jointly from two schools

Classes would start in fall

Ruling rejects objections from other campuses

March 16, 2005|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

Maryland's higher-education secretary has approved creation of a new joint MBA program at the University of Baltimore and Towson University, clearing the way for the first classes to be offered this fall.

Secretary Calvin W. Burnett authorized the master of business administration program, despite objections from several schools that Maryland's graduate business study market is already crowded.

Loyola College and Mount St. Mary's University had formally objected, arguing that the joint MBA would duplicate existing programs and hurt their enrollments.

Morgan State University also had voiced concern, saying the new program could affect MBA programs at the state's historically black universities and would violate the state's agreement with the federal Office of Civil Rights, in which Maryland agreed to encourage students to attend black schools.

But Burnett concluded the UB/Towson program would not hurt existing offerings. "In light of steady growth in the number of both undergraduate and graduate enrollments in business, there should be no negative impacts," he wrote in a letter yesterday announcing his decision.

The new MBA will also "offer additional access to graduate instruction for more Maryland residents, including African-Americans," Burnett wrote.

Private schools have the option of appealing the decision and said yesterday that they were still considering their options. "We owe [the state] the courtesy of reviewing the decision and giving it serious thought," said Tina M. Bjarekull, president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association.

Towson does not have an MBA program. The University of Baltimore now offers MBA classes, taken by about 600 students; those classes are expected to expand to the Towson campus this fall. Officials estimate an additional 30 students would enroll in the joint program in the first year.

Limited selections

The UB/Towson program has been approved by the state university system's board of regents. Officials had hoped to offer a full course catalog this fall but might begin with a more limited selection because of the time it took to gain state approval. "The process just didn't unfold the way we thought," said Towson President Robert L. Caret.

Most of the classes at both campuses will initially be taught by UB professors. Eventually, courses will be split fairly evenly between Baltimore and Towson and taught by professors at both schools. Students will receive a degree from both schools.

The program should fill a gaping hole at Towson, which has the largest undergraduate business program in the Baltimore area, system officials say. About 500 students receive an undergraduate business degree from the university each year.

Officials are expecting enrollment in Maryland system schools to grow by up to 40,000 students over the next decade, and they are hoping to steer many of them to Towson. If the university didn't offer an MBA program, officials feared it would become a less attractive destination. "We're thrilled with the decision," system Chancellor William E. Kirwan said of Burnett's approval.

UB President Robert L. Bogomolny said he, too, was pleased. The number of students who receive MBAs from the University of Baltimore has been dropping. Last year, UB awarded 164 graduate business degrees, down from 222 three years earlier.

"I think this stands to be a stronger program than either school could have offered on their own," Bogomolny said.

The UB/Towson program should be significantly less expensive than other MBA options. Students will pay $415 per credit hour the first year. Loyola charges $500 a credit hour, and students pay from $480 to $620 per credit hour for courses at the Johns Hopkins University.

About 80 percent of Baltimore-area residents who received an MBA last year attended Loyola or Hopkins, according to state statistics.

`Good for the region'

"It's going to be good for the region," Towson's Caret said. "There's been a public-sector need for a while, and we're finally going to have the chance to address that."

Private schools were concerned that another MBA program would hurt their enrollments. About 1,000 students take graduate business courses at Loyola, and the school says it has space for about 500 more.

Loyola also invested millions of dollars in new facilities in Timonium and Columbia, and argued that a new MBA program would hurt the school's business plan. "We respect the decision of the Maryland Higher Education Commission on this matter, and we wish both Towson University and the University of Baltimore well," said David C. Haddad, Loyola's interim president, in a statement.

Morgan President Earl S. Richardson wrote the state a letter expressing concern about the joint MBA program. A total of 19 people received an MBA from Morgan last year, down from almost 40 in 2000.

Burnett noted that UB approached Morgan three times about offering a joint MBA and was rejected each time. But Richardson said Burnett "caved to pressure."

"I am disappointed that he was not more mindful of the adverse impact of his decision on institutions already offering the MBA in the Baltimore area or the extent to which his decision conflicts with state and federal law," Richardson said in a statement.

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