USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan's Statement at Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s FY 2007 Higher Education Budget News Conference

Governor Ehrlich, let me begin by thanking you profoundly on behalf of the entire higher education community for the extraordinary investment you are making in Maryland's higher education's institutions and in our state's future.

Gathered with us today, for what I believe to be an historic occasion, are many members of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, the presidents of our 13 institutions, and higher education leaders from around the state.

Governor Ehrlich, you have kept your commitment. You asked us to demonstrate our willingness to becoming more cost effective and cost conscious stewards of public funds. This we have done and continue to do through our Board of Regents-led Effectiveness and Efficiency Initiatives. You said that if we did this, if you were convinced that state funds would be employed to maximum benefit for the citizens of the state, you would reinvest in higher education. As you know, we have documented more that $40 million dollars of cost containment and cost reductions actions over the past two years.

True to your word, and after successfully battling through difficult fiscal times, you have announced today a dramatic increase in higher education funding. Before discussing the impact of your 2006-07 budget for higher education, I do want to say that even in the difficult fiscal times, we benefited from your commitment to higher education. You found ways to help students by making an extraordinary investment in need-based financial aid. And, you helped the USM by sponsoring legislation to give us greater operational autonomy and by making strategic allocations to support our facilities needs. For all of this support in the past, we are deeply grateful.

But, we are here today to talk about the future, your 2006-07 budget. Two aspects of this budget are especially impressive. First and most obvious is the magnitude of the increase, which I predict will be the largest percentage increase for public higher education in the nation and which brings USM state funding to the highest point in its history.

Equally impressive is the exceptionally thoughtful and strategic way the budget has been put together to address important state needs.

Specifically, your actions will:

  • Allow our institutions to grow their capacity to meet the full enrollment demand for higher education in Maryland;
  • Make a college education affordable by enabling the USM institutions to greatly moderate tuition increases and by substantially increasing need-based financial aid;
  • Provide funds to enhance the quality of the state's flagship university and the other system institutions;
  • Target resources to address critical workforce needs in healthcare, such as teacher education, the technology fields and other skilled professions critical to Maryland's economic growth and quality of life;
  • Build Maryland's capacity for education and research leadership in critical fields such as public health, the biosciences and nano-technology;
  • Provide the seed funding necessary for USM institutions to launch a $1.5 billion plus campaign, which will build the private philanthropy necessary to insure the excellence of our higher educations system into the future; and
  • Through the Cade and Sellinger formulas, allocate vitally important resources to our community college and independent sector partners to work in tandem with us in building a bright economic future and high quality of life for all Marylanders.

That is a remarkable list of accomplishments for a single budget. But, there is a second aspect of this budget that deserves note. At a time when national report after national report bemoans the decline of state investment in higher education around the country and the threat this poses for the U.S.'s continued leadership in the global economy, you are making a powerful statement with this budget. You are saying that:

  • Maryland will be a leader in the knowledge economy;
  • Maryland will have a high quality, accessible and affordable system of higher education;
  • Maryland will have the nation's most educated workforce;
  • Maryland will be a prime source for scientific and technology innovation to drive a knowledge-based economy,
  • Maryland will be the nation's engine for homeland security and its source of innovation in healthcare delivery and in other critical areas to our nation's well-being.

This budget positions Maryland for success tomorrow and in the years to come. It deserves support from all who care about our state's future.

Finally Governor, I want to thank your very talented team of professionals who have worked so closely with us on the development of this budget: Cecelia. Januszkiewicz and her staff in the Department of Budget Management, Craig Williams, and Chip DiPaula. They have listened, probed, challenged and supported us in remarkable ways throughout the budget development process.

We thank you and them for making this historic day possible.