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Comments to the Board of Regents

Chancellor William E. Kirwan

Friday, February 10, 2006

 

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Board of Regents for this opportunity to give my report to the Board.

Let me begin my report by thanking our host institution, Towson University and its president, Bob Caret, for all their efforts to accommodate us today. At our most recent Board meeting (December 9th), I noted that the Maryland Higher Education Commission approved the University of Baltimore - Towson University joint MBA program. Well, the good news for Towson just keeps on coming: Earlier this month, the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU) announced that it was moving its national headquarters to Towson University; Towson's January's commencement ceremony included a record-setting 10 doctorates; a few weeks ago, right here at TU, Governor Ehrlich announced his $161-million FY07 capital budget for the University System of Maryland (USM), which included $45 million for TU to grow; and the university just unveiled a new, robust and user-friendly web portal that will greatly facilitate its ability to communicate with the larger community about the myriad of activities and resources here at Towson. Bob, congratulations on all these accomplishments.

In fact, in addition to the Governor's operating and capital budget proposalswhich I will talk about in greater depth in a momentthere have been exciting developments on all the USM campuses. For example . . .

Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine has named both University of Maryland, College Park and Salisbury University among its Best Values in Public Colleges for 2006, noting their combination of top-flight academics and affordable costs. UM's field hockey and men's soccer teams were recognized this week by the General Assembly for winning Division I national championships this fall. And SU women's field hockey team won the Division III National Championship for the third year in a row, with coach Dawn Chamberlain being named Coach of the Year for the second year in a row. This team joins SU's men's lacrosse team as three-time defending NCAA Division III champs.

At UMCP, the M Square research park has signed the first tenant in its Technology Ventures Building, a facility designed for emerging technology-based companies that need specialized research areas. This follows the generous $30-million gift from Robert Fishcell to establish the Fischell Department of Biological Engineering. Also, President Mote (not in attendance) was named one of 14 Washingtonians of the Year for 2005 by Washingtonian magazine.

Coppin State University is now co-producer of a new political analysis show, Inside the Congressional Black Caucus. This one-hour, nationally syndicated weekly television show focuses on issues and developing legislation that directly impacts African-American communities.

 

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County's chess dynasty keeps rolling on. UMBC beat two-time defending champion University of Texas at Dallas and Harvard en route to a record seventh "World Series" of college chess title earlier this year.

University of Baltimore alumnae Paula Kerger will become the Public Broadcasting Service's sixth president and chief executive officer on March 13. If you have been watching the PBS / CPB interaction in recent years, you know what a challenging job this will be. Also, earlier this year, UB marked the occasion of the 100th commencement in the University's history, going back to the first graduating class of 1928.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore has been signaled out by Governor Ehrlich to make Maryland a national leader in regenerative medicine, including a proposal to build a $12-million Center for Regenerative Medicine in the second building at the UMB BioPark. The Governor is also providing a $1.5-million start-up budget for the center and $20 million to support cutting edge research in this exciting field.

If time permitted, I could continue with other impressive accomplishments on all of our campuses. But even from this truncated list, you can get a sense of the impact USM institutions are having on our state, nation and world.

 

Turing now to my report . . .

Today we are joined by University of Maryland University College's new president, Susan Aldridge. Susan, I know I speak for the board and your fellow presidents when I say we are looking forward to working with you in the years to come. Also with us is UMUC Provost Nicholas Allen, who did a tremendous job as interim president. Nick, we all thank you for your superb leadership during this transition period. I know that your experience and insight will be invaluable to Susan as she assumes her duties.

As you know, two presidential searches are underway. The FSU Presidential Search Committee is making significant progress and should complete its work this spring. The BSU Presidential Search Committee held its first meeting this past week. As I believe you know, the Honorable William D. Missouri, administrative judge with the Circuit Court of Prince George's County and a Bowie alum, is serving as Chair. The committee is expected to complete work early this summer.

Later this monthFebruary 21st at Westminster Hall at UMB to be exactwe will be presenting the System's 2006 Frederick Douglass Award to Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, Robert Bell. Judge Bell served as the University of Maryland Eastern Shore's commencement speaker earlier this year and I am sure President Thelma Thompson can tell you that he is a dynamic and fascinating speaker. I hope all of you will be able to attend this event as we pay tribute to an outstanding judge and a wonderful human being who has been a source of inspiration to all of us on issues of social equity and human rights

Let me now turn our FY 07 budget. I testified before both the House and the Senate in support of the Governor's proposed operating budget for the USM. Board Chairman David Nevins joined me in the House, and Regent Joel Willcher in the Senate. In both instances, we stressed how the Governor's extraordinary budget proposal, a $102M, 12.5% increase over the FY06 Budget, would enable us to meet the System's and the state's key goals of affordability, access, and quality; how it would enable us to meet fully our mandatory costs, expand capacity to meet full enrollment demand, address workforce shortages, and build the quality of our institutions.

The response to both presentations from the members of the General Assembly was very positive. For the first time in my memory, the Department of Legislative Services analysts recommended NO cut to the General Fund's in our budget. This is remarkable!

I think it's appropriate that we pause just a moment and reflect on what is happening in our state with regard to higher education. In state after state, public universities struggle with cuts, flat funding, or at best very modest increases. Last year we received a 6.5% increase from the Governor with no cut from the General Assembly. This year, we get a 12.5% increase from the Governor and the legislative analyst recommends no cut to our General Funds. Maryland is so fortunate to have state leadership in both the executive and legislative branches that truly values higher education and understands its importance in building a strong state economy and a high quality of life for all Marylanders.

The analysts did recommend that in-state undergraduate tuition be frozen at the FY 06 levels, as opposed to the Governor's recommendation, which would allow in-state tuition to grow modestly by as much as 4.5%. We pointed out to the committees that this recommendation would be, in effect, an $18+M cut to our budget and would prevent us from meeting full enrollment demand, or from addressing some of the state's crucial workforce shortages, or from providing state mandated enhancements to our HBUs, the Flagship, and other institutions.

Fortunately, we had eloquent testimony from our student regent, Joel Willcher, who pointed out why he supported the modest tuition increase. We also had Nick Aragon, chair of our System Student Council, who provided compelling testimony for the Council on this subject. Nick said, among other things, that while students never like paying higher tuition, they would prefer the modest 4.5% increase to a cut in our budget.

The response from the legislature has been overwhelmingly positive and I am optimistic that the Governor's proposed budget will be approved this year. Moreover, there is reason to be hopeful that we have reached a new compact with the state in the funding of higher education whereby the state will insure full funding of mandatory costs and will provide its share of the cost for enrollment growth.

The Governor's proposed Capital Budget is equally impressive, providing $161-million for the USM to support projects that will further enable us to expand capacity, meet enrollment demand and build the quality of our institutions. Moreover, the Governor's five-year capital budget provides almost $800M for the System, the largest five-year capital funding plan in the history of higher education in Maryland.

We have now moved into budget hearings for the individual institutions, with a few having already taken place (UMBI, UB, TU). These have gone extremely well.

One final but extremely important point. The Board of Regents has played a decisive role in elevating the consciousness of the Governor, the legislature, and the public at large to the importance of higher education, and the USM in particular. I can't say enough about the importance of your efforts. All of us in the System, the presidents, faculty, students and staff are deeply, deeply grateful.

Mr. Chairman . . . . this completes my report.