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Chancellor's Speeches

Chancellor's (William E. Kirwan) Report to the Board of Regents
University of Maryland University College
Friday, April 16, 2004

 

Thank you Mr. Chairman, members of the Board of Regents. My report today will focus on the recently completed legislative session, but there are a few other items of note I want to mention first.

First, it is my pleasure to introduce Susan Schwab, who will be assuming the position of CEO of The University of Maryland Foundation, effective June 1, 2004.

Second, I want to mention some impressive examples of the quality of the USM; the institutions; and the exceptional people who make up this great System.

As you know, the U.S. News & World Report survey of graduate programs was recently released. Well over two dozen USM programs received top-25 rankings, including a number-1 ranking for the Counseling and Programs Services specialty of the College of Education at the University of Maryland, College Park. I particularly want to congratulate UMCP and UMB for their tremendous showing throughout the graduate school rankings: UMCP's School of Engineering was ranked 16th overall; UMCP's College of Education ranked 20th in the nation; UMB's School of Social Work was ranked 19th overall; and UMB's School of Law received a number 3 ranking for the Healthcare Law Program and a number 4 ranking for the Environmental Law Program.

UMBC also received impressive recognition recently. Its theater program was invited as one of the select few to participate in the highly acclaimed American College Theater Festival underway this week at the Kennedy Center. In addition, UMBC's powerhouse chess team won the prestigious United States Chess Federation's President's Cup. UMBC is to intercollegiate chess what UConn is to women's basketball.

UMES was runner-up in the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge, an academic competition between students at America's Historically Black Colleges and Universities. UMES also received news of its NCATE Accreditation recently. I know President Thompson and her colleagues worked very hard to achieve this goal. Thelma was also honored recently as one of Maryland's Top 100 Women by the Daily Record. Also so honored was Dean Janet Allan of the University of Maryland School of Nursing. I am pleased to see the USM so well represented on this annual list.

Next month Regent Pat Florestano is scheduled to receive the Pi Sigma Alpha Award at the National Capital Area Political Science Association meeting. I know I speak for all of us in offering congratulations to Pat for this well-deserved recognition.

Also next month, President Jennie Hunter-Cevera will receive the J. Roger Porter Award from the United States Federation of Culture Collections and the American Society for Microbiology, recognizing her expertise in collecting, maintaining, and preserving microbial cultures.

Earlier this week, Governor Ehrlich signed legislation making Coppin State College Coppin State University, which better reflects its mission as a major urban institution. I know President Battle had made this a priority and I congratulate him on this great success so early in his tenure.

Finally, I commend President Mote and UMCP for the Maryland Pathways initiative, whereby low income students will receive grants from the university or the state instead of loans. Not only with this enable low-income students to graduate from college without accruing significant debt, but it will also serve as a signal to low-income high school students that higher education is accessible and affordable for them. I hope this program can become a model across the System.

Let me now turn to the legislative session. Given the fiscal constraints our state is under, I believe that this is one of, if not the most successful session in the System's history. In large part, this is due to the phenomenal support we received from Governor Ehrlich and the General Assembly. First and foremost, both the operating and capital budgets were essentially approved as drafted by the governor . . . no cuts to the System's operating budget and one of our largest capital budgets ever. I was especially pleased that full funding was restored for the bioscience research building at College Park, that UMBI's CARB II was kept on track, and that Governor Ehrlich launched the first phase of a $160 million recovery plan for Coppin.

But that's not all the good news.

All three of our key initiatives recommended by the Public Corporation Workgroup, which was chaired by Regent Johnson, have been passed. In fact, these three billsthe Program Approval, the Common Trust Investment, and the Autonomy billsall passed unanimously in both houses and await the Governor's signature. Remarkable.

In many ways, this session represented a watershed of sorts for higher education. Unlike the past few years, this year not only were we not targeted for additional cuts, we were singled out for protection from additional cuts. In conversations with the Governor, Senators and Delegates, there was a clear understanding that the University System has borne more than its share of budget cuts over the past few years and that additional cuts would compromise our progress toward quality and undermine Maryland's economic strength.

The three Tuition Cap / Renewed Investment bills that came forward this session are a perfect example of this view. Each was an attempt to address the issues of access, affordability and quality of our institutions, as articulated in the statement of budget principles passed by the Board of Regents this past December.

One of these bills passed both houses, HB1188. It would roll back in-state undergraduate tuition increases to 5% at all System institutions in FY05 - with offsetting new revenue - and it would provide roughly an additional 3.4% in new revenue. In FY 06 and 07, the bill would provide 5% revenue growth for the System and limit tuition increases to 5%.

I recognize that this bill exists in a larger state political and policy framework. But as Chancellor of the University System, I must assess this bill and advise the Board on it in the context of whether or not the "bottom line" is beneficial to the System, its institutions, and its students. From this perspective, I conclude this bill would be enormously beneficial to us. Admittedly it dose not meet all the conditions of the Board's stated principles. For example, it does not compensate for enrollment growth. And the tuition cap provision restricts the Board's autonomy.

On the other hand, from my vantage point, the benefits of the bill more than compensate for theses shortcomings. I say this because the bill would moderate tuition increases for our students; it would ensure a 5% revenue growth in our state supported budget; it would insulate the System from further budget cuts for the three-year lifetime of the bill, a time of very uncertain state resources; and it would create a Blue Ribbon Task Force that would make policy recommendations as to how the state can stabilize funding for higher education over the long haul.

While final enactment of the bill remains uncertain due to other political and policy considerations, we have begun intensive discussions in Annapolis to make certain that the Governor and others understand our perspective on the bill before the final decision is made. Independent of the final dispensation of the bill, we can take great heart in the enormous degree of support we received from the Governor and the General Assembly. Clearly our state leaders in the executive and legislative branches understand the vital importance of the System to the future well being of the state. We owe them a debt of gratitude.

As I conclude my report, I want to suggest four reasons why our efforts in Annapolis were so successful this year:

  • First, the Board's clearly articulated statement of budget principles gave us a framework within which to evaluate and respond to the various budget and tuition bills that were introduced.
  • Second, the process of determining a legislative agenda through the Public Corporation Work Group was extremely effective. Campuses provided meaningful input and suggestions and, under Regent Johnson's leadership, clear legislative priorities were established. In other words, we had a meaningful agenda developed through a collaborative process.
  • Third, everyone supported the priorities and worked together extremely well to see that the legislative agenda was realized.
  • And fourth, we had incredible participation . . . orchestrated with dazzling acuity by Joe Bryce, supported by Roz Hamlett and the campus Governmental Relations Officers, Anne Moultrie and the campus communications professionals, and involving at every turn Regents, Presidents, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of our institutions. It was a model of process and participation that we must use in the future. If we do, I believe we will experience similarly successful sessions in the years ahead.

Mr. Chairman and members of the Board, that completes my report.