As the 2012 session of the Maryland General Assembly moves forward, I am pleased to update you on Governor Martin O'Malley's proposed budget for the University System of Maryland (USM) and other recent developments.


Governor O'Malley earlier this month released his FY 2013 budget proposal. It includes $1.07 billion in state funds for USM. This $9 million increase over our FY 2012 state funding level will "buy down" the undergraduate tuition increase from five to three percent.

Given the rise in mandatory costs-including healthcare, retirement, debt service, new facility operating costs, and financial aid-the increase in state support plus the funding that will come from the modest three-percent tuition increase will enable our operating budget to stay level next fiscal year.

This budget continues two impressive trends that set Maryland apart from-and ahead of-many other states. First, while we are seeing public university budgets being slashed across the country, our elected officials have chosen to support higher education to help drive the state forward in the innovation economy. Second, with the four-year tuition freeze and the modest tuition increases that followed the freeze, Maryland has moved from having the sixth highest tuition all the way down to 25th nationwide.  

Members of the USM Board of Regents and I are testifying in support of the Governor's budget in both the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates. You will be able to review USM legislative testimony presented throughout the session here:


In my letters to you last year, I outlined USM's strategic plan: Powering Maryland Forward.  Even though we are in the early phases of implementing the plan, we are making progress in each of the key areas, especially in the first two goals-increasing degree completion rates and bolstering Maryland's competitiveness with an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). For example, USM is more than 10 percent of the way toward our goal of awarding 10,000 more degrees by 2020. We've increased total STEM enrollment by almost 2,500 students, close to 10 percent. And we've boosted undergraduate enrollment in STEM teacher education programs by a remarkable 45 percent over the FY 2010 level.

Related to the third goal of Powering Maryland Forward-transforming the academic model with course redesign-USM is a national leader. With USM funds and support from the Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and others, we are redesigning courses to incorporate more active and collaborative learning. These redesigned courses are yielding higher student performance, often at lower costs. In addition, we are expanding this effort beyond USM campuses, working with community colleges to replace remedial courses and so-called developmental courses with this new paradigm to boost achievement and retention.

The final two elements of our strategic plan-exemplary stewardship of resources and a commitment to excellence-represent two of USM's overarching and ongoing priorities. Through our Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiative, we have now cut more than a quarter-billion dollars in direct costs from our budget.  In addition, we have seen the average time-to-undergraduate degree drop from five to four-and-a-half years, and our four-year and six-year graduation rates are at an all-time high, both above the national average.

At the same time, we continue to earn impressive national and international rankings. UMCP is ranked 38th in the Shanghai Ranking Consultancy's 2011Academic Ranking of World Universities. And the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) has been recognized as the nation's #1 "Up-and-Coming National University" by U.S. News & World Report for three consecutive years. Four USM institutions-UMCP, UMBC, Towson University, and Salisbury University-rank among the nation's 100 best values in public higher education in Kiplinger's Personal Finance.  

The fact is, in highly regarded national publications such as Kiplinger's, The Princeton Review, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, and U.S. News & World Report, you will find literally every USM degree-granting institution represented.


The USM Board of Regents recently completed a legislatively mandated study of the advantages and disadvantages of merging UMCP and UMB. This six-month study was comprehensive and inclusive, involving representatives from all USM institutions. We received input from higher education merger experts, elected officials, business and community leaders, and other interested individuals.

Ultimately, the board concluded that the disadvantages of a merger outweighed the advantages. The board also concluded that USM needed to fully capitalize on the potential advantages that did exist and therefore has asked UMB President Jay Perman, UMCP President Wallace Loh, and me to develop a plan for a formal alliance between the two universities. This strategic alliance will be a structured collaboration with specific accountability measures. It will be designed to:  

better address Maryland's workforce needs through joint academic programs;attract more research funding to the state with collaborative efforts;and create more opportunities for technology transfer and commercialization. 

The presidents and I are on track to announce plans for the alliance by March 1, 2012. 


With the new year, Maravene Loeschke became the 13th president of Towson University. She comes to Towson from Mansfield University in Pennsylvania, where she distinguished herself through her commitment to diversity and inclusion, efficiency and effectiveness, excellence, accountability, and community outreach. President Loeschke succeeds Bob Caret, who now leads the University of Massachusetts System. Between President Caret's departure and President Loeschke's arrival, Marcia Welsh, Towson's provost and vice president of academic affairs, served extremely well as the interim president.

Our search for a new president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore is progressing well. The search attracted a pool of talented candidates. Thelma Thompson in August 2011 stepped down from the presidency after a nine-year tenure. Mortimer Neufville, a former UMES vice president of academic affairs, continues to do a great job as interim president. 


In his most recent State of the Union address, President Barack Obama referenced his December 2011 meeting with a group of higher education leaders. UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski and I were honored to take part in this meeting. During the address, President Obama challenged states to invest in higher education, challenged colleges and universities to moderate tuition hikes, and made specific reference to the impact of cost control efforts and course redesign. In essence, he called upon states across the nation to follow Maryland's example. All Marylanders should take pride in the fact that initiatives like those of USM are being held up as models for the nation.


As always, I very much appreciate hearing from you. If you would like to offer feedback on this letter or any other USM news, please write me at: Also let me know if you'd like a printed copy of our strategic plan Powering Maryland Forward and/or the FY 2011 annual report I presented to the Board of Regents recently.

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