Alarming picture of state's higher education priorities

May 13, 2011

Two articles in The Sun of May 11th present an alarming picture of Gov. Martin O'Malley's priorities for supporting higher education in the state.

In her commentary "Maryland's uneducated graduates," Marta H. Mossburg of the Maryland Public Policy Institute reports that huge numbers of Maryland's high school graduates show up annually on college campuses in need of remedial courses in math and/or English before they may enroll for credit-bearing courses.

Her statistics are largely drawn from the community college level: 65-70 percent at Montgomery College, 74 percent at CCBC in Baltimore County, and a whopping 80 percent at BCCC in Baltimore City. Additionally, she quotes from Jerome Dancis, associate professor emeritus of math at the University of Maryland, who "counted 22 sections of remedial math in the fall of 2009" at College Park.

According to Ms. Mossburg, the taxpayers' bill for these programs is $90 million a year.

In the same edition of The Sun, a front-page story headlined "Seniors stunned by Md. scholarship cuts" revealed the phasing out of the Maryland Distinguished Scholars program. It is a move that will leave some 350 of Maryland's most deserving high school seniors without a $3,000-per-year scholarship provided they agree to attend an in-state college, thereby keeping the money in Maryland.

Governor O'Malley has authorized the Maryland Higher Education Commission to cancel the program in order to save approximately $1 million. All while the state continues to underwrite non-credit remediation for those who didn't learn what they were allegedly supposed to have learned while in high school.

Here's a suggestion: Let the governor and the MHEC reduce the state's budget for remedial courses by 1.5 percent and use that money to save the Distinguished Scholars Program and even expand it. To do anything less is not only unconscionable but sends the wrong messages to both our scholars as well as our underachievers.

George W. Nellies, Towson

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