Maryland Awarded Lumina Grant to Enhance Degree Productivity, Transfer Process for Students

ADELPHI, Md. (December 16, 2008) - As states cut their budgets and students and families bear more of the cost of a college education, Lumina Foundation for Education today announced that Maryland has been selected as one of 11 states to receive a grant to further increase productivity in higher education. State leaders will develop and implement policy changes that promote cost-saving methods of delivering high-quality education to greater numbers of students. The grant was presented to the University System of Maryland Foundation, Inc. on behalf of the state's major higher education organizations.

Maryland and the 10 other participating states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin) will receive a one-year grant of $150,000 through the foundation's Making Opportunity Affordable (MOA) initiative to develop innovative strategies in key policy areas to promote sustainable improvements in productivity. The states will be eligible to compete next year for a $2-million Opportunity Grant to implement their plans over four years.

The $45.5 million initiative seeks to advance policy innovation and change in higher education finance, management, and instructional delivery to get many more students into and through postsecondary education.

Maryland has been working in recent years to bolster the productivity of its higher education resources and to expand access by holding down costs and reducing student loan debt for students; improving and streamlining the transfer process for community college students; and increasing graduation and retention rates for low-income, first-in-family, and minority students.

The new grant will enable the state to expand this effort through a collaboration of the public and private four-year institutions and the state's community colleges. The University System of Maryland (USM) will work in partnership with the Maryland Higher Education Commission, Maryland Association of Community Colleges, and the Maryland Independent Colleges and Universities Association to develop seamless pathways from community colleges into four-year institutions. The Lumina grant will support outcomes research on the current Associate of Arts of Teaching programs (AAT) that will inform the expansion of the seamless transfer model to other majors, especially those linked to workforce shortage areas such as engineering and nursing.

"Lumina Foundation's initiative allows states like Maryland to continue expanding the opportunity of higher education to more of our citizens rather than fewer," said Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. "During these difficult economic times, it is important that public and private sectors alike understand that the dream of a higher education remains for working families regardless of economic circumstances. Higher education should not be a privilege afforded only to those with the means to purchase it, and these funds from Lumina will help Maryland fill the gap of demand and available public resources."

"Close collaboration among all the sectors of higher education--from community colleges to four-year institutions and beyond--is absolutely vital to serving our citizens and providing our state with the skilled workforce necessary to keep our knowledge economy strong," said USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan. "The Lumina grant will help Maryland develop more pathways for community college students to transition easily to four-year institutions and complete their degrees more timely and successfully."

The Foundation believes that systems and institutions that show a willingness to increase productivity are more likely to receive the additional investments of public money that will be needed for the United States to maintain an internationally competitive workforce and economy and to preserve the benefits of American society.

The United States spends about twice as much as the average industrialized country per student on higher education, not including research spending, and it is graduating students at a higher cost than other nations. The United States is now tied for 10th internationally in the percentage of adults 25 to 34 who hold college degrees. Worse, the United States now ranks 15th among nations in the proportion of college students who start work toward degrees and actually complete them, leaving many students with piles of student loan debt and nothing to show. Meanwhile, the cost of attending college has risen more rapidly than household incomes, and the availability of financial aid has not kept up with tuition increases.

"We need to take a harder look at how public colleges are prioritizing and managing their resources. Current spending patterns are not sustainable in the face of rapid demographic shifts, rising costs on campuses, and increased competition for state budget dollars," said Jamie Merisotis, president of Lumina Foundation. "We must find ways of increasing productivity on our nation's campuses to raise U.S. degree-attainment rates, which have remained stagnant in recent decades. And we need to explore and invest in new models for delivering a college education, especially if these models can help the United States graduate more students who face financial and academic challenges."

State Strategies for Productivity Enhancement and Innovation

During the initiative's 2008-09 national "Learning Year," governors, legislators and leaders of colleges and universities will refine and develop strategies to increase productivity and explore policy changes and innovations in three areas:

1. Recasting state finance systems to reward institutions for graduating students, not just enrolling them. In many states, public money appropriated to operate colleges and universities is based mostly on how many students have enrolled and how much was budgeted for the prior year, rather than on how many students actually complete courses and academic programs. Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas will explore innovative ways of financing college based on completion and graduation.

2. Increasing the efficiency and cost effectiveness of academic programs and administrative operations. Here, states and the colleges and universities they support are mostly embracing incremental approaches. What's needed is more rapid and widespread adoption of promising cost-saving practices and a much greater willingness to scrutinize the way colleges and institutions do business. For example, California will study student academic progress and experiences, including attendance, credit accumulation patterns, and academic performance, to design and implement a variety of strategies to increase instructional productivity. Colorado will renegotiate fee-for-service contracts to include measurable productivity objectives and will accelerate efforts to re-enroll adults who have fewer than 30 credits remaining to complete work on a credential. In addition, In addition, Mississippi will enhance and leverage efforts to increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of academic programs by advancing a system-wide redesign of developmental education courses. Among other efforts, Maryland and Wisconsin will work to strengthen transitions and transfers among the state's education institutions, as a means of better supporting underserved students.

3. Creating or expanding new models of delivery to serve more students by targeting lower-cost institutions. Arizona will build additional and more cost-effective pathways to bachelor's degree attainment and create increased institutional diversity in the degree provision system. Montana will promote college enrollment and degree completion in a new, networked consortium of technical and community colleges that is convenient for students who live far away from college campuses.

States receiving the initial, $150,000 grants will be eligible to apply for the larger grants next year. In the fall of 2009, Lumina will award grants of $2 million each to as many as five states whose plans hold the greatest promise to bolster higher education productivity.

The nation's economic crisis will make the Foundation's effort more challenging and potentially more beneficial to states, which are bracing for some of the most severe cuts in general fund spending in three decades.

There are no budget surpluses available to help boost participation and degree-completion rates in higher education. "If the challenges of prior economic slowdowns have taught us anything, it's that the absence of new money can make possible change that wouldn't otherwise be possible," said Merisotis, Lumina's president.

Lumina Foundation for Education, an Indianapolis-based private foundation, strives to help people achieve their potential by expanding access to and success in education beyond high school. Through grants for research, innovation, communication and evaluation, as well as policy education and leadership development, Lumina Foundation addresses issues that affect access and educational attainment among all students, particularly underserved student groups such as minorities, first-generation college-goers, students from low-income families and working adults. The Foundation bases its mission on the belief that postsecondary education remains one of the most beneficial investments that individuals can make in themselves and that a society can make in its people.

Contact: John Buettner
Phone: 301.445.2719