Towson, UB are cleared for joint MBA program

Despite protests by Morgan State, classes start next fall


A state commission cleared the way yesterday for Towson University to begin offering an MBA program, rejecting protests by Morgan State University, which argued that students should instead get their graduate business degrees at the historically black college.

The Maryland Higher Education Commission voted 10-1 to uphold an earlier decision permitting Towson to grant a joint MBA degree with the University of Baltimore. Towson, which boasts a large undergraduate business school, will launch its first graduate-level business classes next fall.

Towson President Robert L. Caret said he was enthusiastic about the partnership. He called the master of business administration one of several graduate degrees "necessary for our future."

"Towson is a maturing campus," attracting increasing numbers of students interested in upper-level courses, Caret said.

University of Baltimore President Robert L. Bogomolny was equally upbeat. The university, which has well-known law and business schools and already offers MBA classes, will help Towson develop and staff its courses.

But Calvin W. Burnett, Maryland's secretary of higher education, said he had mixed emotions.

Though he gave his blessing to the Towson/UB partnership in March, Burnett said he hoped the two colleges could work something out to satisfy the objections of Morgan President Earl S. Richardson.

"I'm pleased, but I'm certainly not jumping for joy," Burnett said yesterday. "I wished we could have worked it out with the three institutions to do a joint program. I don't know why it did not work out."

Richardson filed a formal appeal six weeks after Burnett approved the joint Towson/UB program. In protesting to the Higher Education Commission, Richardson argued that the program would duplicate one offered for more than 30 years at Morgan State - and lead to greater segregation at Baltimore-area colleges.

Burnett, the longtime president of Coppin State University, another historically black college, said he understood Richardson's concerns. But he concluded that an additional graduate business program would not create too much competition for Morgan and other colleges that offer MBA degrees.

Yesterday, the state's higher education commissioners said Burnett made the right decision. "We took an exhaustive look at the evidence and concluded the secretary's decision was the appropriate one," said Kevin O'Keefe, the commission chairman.

Richardson said through a spokesman last night that he was disappointed. He challenged the commission's decision, saying it would result in "a duplication of programs that represents a waste of taxpayer dollars," said spokesman Clinton R. Coleman.

The higher education commissioners encouraged the three colleges "to continue a dialogue to identify ways to collaborate and cooperate."

Caret said he wants to work with Morgan, but not at the cost of scotching the MBA program and telling students to get their graduate degrees at Morgan.

"Students don't go where you tell them to go," he said. "That particular desire was sort of dead on arrival."

The UB/Towson partnership, which was approved by the state university system, will close a gap in Towson's business program. Right now, undergraduate business students have to move on to other colleges to get their MBA degrees.

UB professors will initially teach the new classes at Towson.

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