March 13, 2009

Private colleges a boon to state

Len Lazarick's column "A spending problem" (Commentary, March 9) advocates balancing the state's operating budget by "cutting such programs as state aid to private colleges and universities."

Unlike public schools in K-12 education, public universities are not open-enrollment institutions. They do not admit all students, offer every academic program or serve every region of the state. To do so would be inefficient and too expensive for taxpayers.

Maryland's independent colleges and universities offer many unique education experiences and programs not available at any public university in Maryland. And these independent institutions provide education in regions not served by public universities.

The academic services provided by independent colleges and universities are critical to Maryland's knowledge-based economy. More important, they are critical to the 52,000 students enrolled on our campuses.

Each year, our private colleges award about 13,000 degrees. It would cost the state almost $500 million to produce these degrees at public universities.

The $50 million the state awards annually to independent colleges and universities is a small fraction of that cost.

Tina Bjarekull, Annapolis

The writer is president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association.

Good riddance to track operator

So Magna Entertainment Corp. has filed for Chapter 11 and has Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course (along with the Preakness Stakes) up for sale ("Md. tracks on auction block," March 6). I say, good riddance to a corporation with little interest in the culture or traditions of Baltimore and Maryland.

On Nov. 26, Magna announced an agreement with its parent company that included money for a license application for slots at Laurel Park ("Pro-slots raised over $7 million," Nov. 27). Then, inexplicably, it refused to ante up the filing fee and, instead, went to court to try to change the rules after submitting its application.

When Magna bought Pimlico, it promised to keep the Preakness Stakes here - with or without the legalization of slots. But since the purchase, it has repeatedly offered veiled rumblings about moving the race unless incentives and special breaks flowed its way.

Since Gov. Martin O'Malley and the General Assembly's leaders have long been on record about how valuable Pimlico and the Preakness are, maybe the state should buy the rights to them.

Then at least the windfall from slots might more directly benefit the citizens of Maryland.

Mel Barnhart, Randallstown

Protect Preakness as Magna struggles

While Magna Entertainment Corp. struggles to sell its properties ("Md. tracks on auction block," March 6), the governor should use the talents of the racing commission and a top-notch promotion committee to ensure that the Preakness isn't compromised as Magna focuses on its financial difficulties.

Terry M. Rubenstein, Baltimore

Let gays serve openly in military

"Don't ask, don't tell" is an outdated policy whose time has simply passed.

The real question here is simply this: Why should well-qualified Americans who want to serve their country be denied the opportunity to do so based on their sexual orientation?

Our military is filled with mature men and women. Its ranks, and its leadership, are filled with adults who have, no doubt, encountered gay men and lesbians before.

Changing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy would only enhance the overall professionalism and fairness of the military as an institution.

Pamela McCann, Catonsville

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