State funding for universities pays dividends

October 30, 2007|By David J. Ramsay

Maryland is rightly referred to as "the land of pleasant living." We enjoy a healthy economy that relies on an educated work force serving many large federal agencies and private companies.

Higher education in Maryland is vital in driving this economy. From our community colleges to our research universities, higher education is the wellspring of Maryland's technicians, health care professionals, engineers, information specialists and biomedical researchers - to name just a few.

This is why Gov. Martin O'Malley's efforts to increase funding for higher education are so important.

Maryland boasts of three major research universities: the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, College Park, and my own University of Maryland, Baltimore. Collectively, these universities generate well over $2.5 billion annually in sponsored research. These dollars are awarded competitively and come to Maryland because of the quality of our researchers and faculty. And that's only the beginning of their economic impact. Both Hopkins and UM Baltimore support major health care operations. With their affiliated hospitals and practice plans, these two universities are No. 1 and No. 5 among the largest employers in Maryland.

In addition, Maryland's three major research universities are each developing multimillion-dollar research parks that are almost entirely supported by non-state revenue. Our large research establishments generate much of the new knowledge that keeps Maryland's economy strong and healthy. According to research from the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore, the UM Baltimore campus alone, not counting its affiliated hospital system, generates $16.50 in economic activity for every $1 of state general funds invested - and more than 23,000 jobs.

Why, then, should Marylanders invest more tax dollars in higher education? Because otherwise, Maryland will lose in the long run. Already, tuitions are very high, preventing talented students from pursuing their dreams. Competitor states such as New Jersey, California, Connecticut and Pennsylvania are investing significantly in the capital and operating budgets of their universities. This will make it much more difficult for Maryland to recruit and retain key faculty who are among the main engines that drive this economy. And the competition is not restricted to the U.S.; England, Ireland, India and Singapore are also recruiting our stars.

If Maryland is to build upon its leadership role in the knowledge economy, higher education in the state - and its research universities in particular - need enhanced state support.

David Ramsay is president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. His e-mail is drramsay@umaryland.edu.

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