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ACHIEVING THE VISION IN HARD TIMES: III

USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan's Report to the
University System of Maryland Board of Regents
Thursday, February 18, 2005

 

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Board of Regents. I begin by thanking our host, Stewart Edelstein, Executive Director of the Universities at Shady Grove. While USG may not have the lengthy history that other USM institutions have, it has certainly made its mark. In a sense, the Universities at Shady Grove represents the University System of Maryland in microcosm, with the commitment to provide affordable access to quality higher education opportunities, in critical workforce areas, to a growing student population.

In perhaps the best possible compliment to the success of USG under Stew's leadership, we have used it as a model to launch the USM at Hagerstown. We will be relying on both these centers as we address enrollment and cost issues.

As you know, a great deal has happened since our last regularly-scheduled full board meeting. But before I get to the specifics of my report, let me highlight some newsworthy items.

I begin with two items that impact the entire system. First, Moody's Investors Service has upgraded the USM's long-term bond rating. In making the announcement, Moody's said the rating upgrade reflects the university system's financial strength as well as our consistently healthy operating performance and good debt service coverage. This is certainly good news and validates our efforts to strengthen our financial position. It reflects the Regents' fiscal leadership, the presidents' prudent management, andmost especiallyit reflects the expertise and energy that Joe Vivona brings as the quarterback of our fiscal management team.

Second, I am pleased to note that Associate Vice Chancellor Anne Moultrie has launched USMBriefs, the inaugural issue of which was sent out earlier this month. We've created this briefing to tell regional opinion leaders how the University System of Maryland is enhancing quality, access, and affordability. We plan to distribute it about four times a year. Please let Anne know if you have any feedback or suggestions.

There was also no shortage of tremendous accomplishments and events at out campuses:

The University of Maryland, College Park received not one, but two significant gifts: $30 million from A. James Clark, and $30 million from Robert Smith. As Dr. Mote noted at the event, these generous gifts will support quality and access, the university's two greatest needs.

Coppin State University's President, Dr. Stanley F. Battle, has been chosen as one of four 'Champions of Courage' earlier this month by FOX 45 in recognition of his commitment to empowering young people. I believe the awards luncheon is tomorrow . . . congratulations.

Frostburg State University's Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) program was designated a "Place of Promise" by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities last month. COPC [COP-SEE] is a university-wide partnership network that links FSU faculty and students directly to the community to meet unmet needs. FSU is one of the first institutions to be honored with this special recognition.

Bowie State University has built a $1 million supercomputer in cooperation with Apple Computer, Inc. Called "XSEED", it is one of the world's 100 most powerful supercomputers. This will not only enhance teaching, learning, and research at the University, but will also increase grant opportunities and attract business partnerships.

Towson University has initiated the Top 10% Scholars Program, offering a number of incentives to attract the best and brightest graduates of Baltimore City and Baltimore County public high schools to Maryland's Metropolitan University.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, continues to serve as an excellent example of how a campus can increase the presence and success of women faculty in science and technology, an issue that has certainly grabbed a few headlines recently. During the last six years, UMBC has expanded campus-wide initiatives to attract and support female faculty and graduate students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Since 2000, the number of tenured or tenure-track women faculty in these fields has more than doubled, from 17 to 36.

Advancements such as these, at every USM institution across the state, are a constant reminder of the power, importance and impact of the USM.

The budget hearings have begun in Annapolis and are going extremely well. Earlier this month, Cliff and I delivered our testimony at the House and Senate subcommittees' overview hearings on the Governor's proposed budget for USM. As you know, the "bottom line" of the Governor's recommendation is a 4.8% general fund increase for the USM, from $761.5 million to $798.2 million. Even though this level of funding only puts us back where we were in FY 03 (and well below or FY02 level), at a time when many state functions will be seeing reductions, we are certainly grateful. We are also pleased that the DLS had recommended no cuts to the Governor's proposed budget.

In our testimony, Cliff and I stressed that the single most important impact of the Governor's proposed increase in state support is that it will enable us to keep in-state, undergraduate tuition increases modest throughout the System. The average increase is 5.8%, and no institution will see a tuition increase of more than 5.9%. Along with this commitment to affordability, the budget proposal allows for modest investments in both access and quality.

One of the reasons the governor cited for why the USM was getting this increase was the success of the Regents-lead Effectiveness and Efficiency efforts. Cliff and I updated the legislature on the status of our E&E initiatives. These efforts are creating savings and expanding capacity. In fact, we have made cuts worth $26 million to our FY06 budget.

It is important to note that we have three key academic E&E provisions are on our agenda today:

First is the proposed policy on the admission of first-time freshmen in the spring semester strongly encourages those students to earn at least 12 credits in the fall semester immediately prior to their spring enrollment. If approved, the policy would become effective for students admitted on or after July 1, 2005.

Next, the proposed policy on alternative means of earning academic degree credit would enable undergraduates, on average, to complete at least 12 required credits outside of the traditional classroom experience, effective beginning with first-time freshmen who enter in fall 2005. Options would include online courses, independent study or research, study abroad, service learning, internships, and advanced placement credits.

Additionally, the board will consider a policy that sets 120 as the standard number of credits required for a bachelor's degree, with appropriate exceptions. The policy would become effective July 1, 2005.

The USM Academic Affairs Advisory Council and the presidents of the USM institutions have reviewed and approved each policy as drafted.

As part of our administrative / cost-saving E&E efforts, today the board will also consider a proposal for USM institutions to leverage their buying power to procure electricity on a group basis rather than as individual institutions. In conjunction with all USM institutions, the University of Maryland, College Park, seeks board approval to solicit electricity pricing proposals and to award contracts to vendors offering the most favorable pricing to USM institutions.

The E&E program, combined with the updated Strategic Plan, the Tuition Task Force, and the Financial Aid Task Force, represent a system-wide reengineering . . . . a new approach to stability, predictability, affordability, quality, and enhanced access. With these efforts, the USM is poised to become a national model in the new reality of higher education. I commend the Board for your vision and leadership in spearheading these vital efforts.

Finally, Mr. Chairman and members of the Board, I would like to call your attention to a resolution you passed in December 2003. The resolution's intent was to guide our responses during the 2004 legislative session to various executive and legislative initiatives regarding our budget. I believe this is an excellent statement and I suggest that it continue to serve as a statement of Regents' philosophy.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my report.