January 30, 2004

Testimony of Chariman Cliff Kendall

Thank you. On behalf of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, I appreciate this opportunity to meet with you regarding the USM's budget for Fiscal Year 2005. I am joined this afternoon by Chancellor Brit Kirwan.

Two weeks ago, Brit and I spoke to you about the vital role the USM plays as an economic engine for Maryland, the challenges we face in terms of funding decreases and enrollment increases, the steps we have taken to reduce staff, cut costs and improve efficiency, and our concentrated effort to keep tuition increases both predictable and as small as possible. We address all these issues while continuing to pursue our legislative mandate for national eminence.

I know you are all keenly aware of these challenges and our efforts to overcome them. I will not rehash the specifics from that prior testimony. Rather I will focus on our efforts going forward and the importance of a true sense of partnership in our work together.

Last year Governor Ehrlich made a commitment to level-fund the USM budget, and he has honored that pledge. If approved by the legislature, the governor's $746 million in state funding for USM will enable us to take some critical steps in improving access to USM institutions, with nearly $16 million in need-based financial aid for higher education statewide and over $1million to open the new Hagerstown Regional Higher Education Center. We are very grateful for the governor's commitment to higher education and for the historical support of this Committee.

Earlier this week, Governor Ehrlich and Lt. Governor Steele re-emphasized this commitment to education in their $847 million Capital Budget. Almost one-third of the fundingnearly $260 millionis dedicated to public colleges and universities: $56 million to accelerate construction of the biological sciences research building at College Park; $19 million for the UMB Dental School; the first phase of a $160 million recovery plan at Coppin; and several other critical construction projects. These new facilities will enable us to both accommodate the anticipated surge in enrollment and strengthen our growing dominance in academic research and development. Again, we thank the Governor and Lt. Governor for recognizing the importance of these investments and for continuing the work of this Committee to meet the System's capital needs.

I assure you that the USM is committed to holding up our end of the bargain as well. The Board of Regents recently issued a resolution reaffirming our commitment to the goals of quality, access and affordability. This resolution also outlined our commitment to accommodate the anticipated growth in enrollment, be accountable for achieving cost containment targets, continuing to review every aspect of our operations to identify further cost savings and efficiencies, and to provide affordable, predictable levels of tuition. This final point was further underscored as we approved the recommendations of the Tuition Task Force, which will require USM institutions to develop four-year tuition plans based on enrollment projections, resource needs, and projected state funding. This action will mean increased predictability for students and families.

We are also hopeful that as the state's economy improves in the years ahead, and additional resources become available, that the governor and the Maryland General Assembly will work with the university system to ensure a predictable funding stream to protect affordable access and quality, as our State strives to serve the coming surge of students who want to enroll at our institutions. A long-term commitment on the part of the state to once again make investments in higher education a funding priority is an essential element if the USM is to fulfill the promise it held when it was created back in 1988.

We at the University System of Maryland look forward to strengthening our partnership with the state's elected officials to provide first-rate programs to a growing number of students. It is important that Marylanders know that their elected officials and university system share the goal of affordable access to quality public higher education.