January 24, 2006

Dear USM Faculty and Staff:

We began the new year with terrific news. Gov. Ehrlich announced earlier this month his proposal for a 12.5% increase in general funds as part of the University System of Maryland's FY 2007 operating budget. If approved by the Maryland General Assembly, this would mean a $101-million increase in state support.

In making the announcement, the governor said: "We are making extraordinary new investments in our higher education system, while making colleges and universities more affordable for Maryland families. I applaud (USM) for making our university system a better steward of taxpayer dollars the past three years."

The state funding increase would enable USM to broaden access to higher education, protect and enhance quality, support workforce development more fully, and strengthen research capabilities important to the state's economic development and quality of life.

Gov. Ehrlich's announcement clearly demonstrates his commitment to a strong public higher education system. It also highlights the significance of the USM Board of Regents-led Effectiveness and Efficiency (E&E) initiatives. Through E&E and your dedication, we have achieved more than $40 million in cost containment and reductions during the past two years.

Our total FY 2007 operating budget, as approved by the Board of Regents, would allow USM to advance several priorities shared by the university system, state officials, and the citizens of Maryland. Specifically, the budget would:

  • allow our institutions to grow capacity to meet full enrollment demand;
  • allow USM to greatly moderate tuition increases while substantially increasing need-based financial aid;
  • provide funds to enhance our institutions, including the University of Maryland, College Park, as the state's flagship university; and the system's historically black institutions-Bowie State University, Coppin State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore;
  • target resources to address the state's critical workforce needs, including nursing, teacher education, and technology fields;
  • build the state's capacity for education and research leadership in public health, the biosciences, nano-technology, and other critical fields;
  • provide the seed funding our institutions need to launch a $1.5-billion campaign to attract the private funding required to support quality, access, and affordability.

Members of the business community are joining with us in enthusiastic support for this significant investment in higher education and in our state's future. Donald Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), recently wrote: "Maryland's public and private institutions continuously offer new educational programs to address the needs of the market place in critical areas of workforce need . . . The GBC strongly supports enhanced funding for the State's public and private higher education institutions. Access to a highly educated workforce is a GBC priority. This can only be achieved with a fully funded, quality system of higher education."

USM community members and friends already are working to win the General Assembly's approval of the full budget request. We have an extraordinary opportunity, and responsibility, to help demonstrate that the Governor, General Assembly, and the University System of Maryland are working together to provide affordable, high-quality education; solidify the state's role as a leader in the knowledge economy; and ensure a productive and competitive workforce for our state.

I very much appreciate and value your continued contributions on behalf of a strong and healthy University System of Maryland.



William E. Kirwan