ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s higher education needs to be made more accessible, affordable and student-centered, state higher education officials agreed at a meeting on Wednesday.
“The Maryland State Plan for Postsecondary Education 2004” outlined five ways to promote quality higher education: access and affordability, economic growth and vitality, a student-centered learning system, quality and effectiveness and equal opportunity for a diverse citizenry.
“Our responsibility is to examine what the needs of higher education are without the economics,” said Calvin W. Burnett, Maryland’s higher education secretary.
The most urgent issues are affordability and access. Currently some students eligible for financial aid aren’t getting it, the officials said. The system needs an extra $35 million to serve those students.
A national education group gave Maryland an “F” in affordability of higher education for 2004.
“When we are comparing ourselves to neighboring states — it is now cheaper to go out of state than in state,” said Delegate Frank S. Turner, D-Howard. “We are way outside the range of other institutions.”
And the student body is only getting bigger. By 2013, projected state enrollment in the state’s public colleges and universities is expected to increase 23 percent. A space equivalent to two University of Maryland, College Park, campuses will be required.
That will make it harder to meet the report’s goal: All Maryland residents who can benefit from postsecondary education and who have a desire to attend a college, university or private career school should have a place in postsecondary education. And they should be able to afford it.
The report also calls for promoting a work force to enhance Maryland’s economy and developing a population of state teachers qualified to work in Maryland.
The state is projected to hire around 6,000 new teachers in 2004-2005. But seven specialities are difficult positions to fill: career technology, computer science, English for speakers of other languages, foreign languages, mathematics, science and special education, the State Board of Education has said.
Maryland students also are entitled to a quality education for a diverse student body, a goal most hindered by budget difficulties.
Universities are straining to retain full-time faculty members.
“More and more, our colleges are struggling to keep up with the salaries of public school teachers,” said Elaine Ryan, College of Southern Maryland president. The Maryland Higher Education Committee selected a cross section of influential legislators, education representatives, local leaders and business community members to draft the 34-page proposal to be submitted to Gov. Robert Ehrlich in December. A revised draft of the report will be issued Sept. 29 and a final presentation is scheduled Nov. 17.