ANNAPOLIS – State higher education officials are skeptical about an application from a for-profit corporation trying to set up a technical college in Maryland, saying the expensive facility would not have to meet the same accreditation standards as others in the state.
“I see a trend of institutions wanting to set up colleges and universities here without meeting the same criteria as Maryland’s other four-year institutions,” said Gertrude Eaton, academic affairs associate vice chancellor for the University System.
The comments came as the Education Policy Committee of the Maryland Higher Education Commission reviewed a report Wednesday on the application of ITT Educational Services Inc., a national corporation based in Indiana, for a proposed new college in Owings Mills.
ITT is just one of three for-profit institutions trying to locate in Maryland, said Eaton.
The applicant’s lack of clear guidelines has education officials concerned.
While Maryland’s four-year institutions undergo a stringent review by the Middle States Association to be accredited, ITT’s proposed school could avoid such scrutiny.
“If they do intend to seek accreditation, they have four years until students graduate to set up a site here without being accredited,” said Eaton.
And without accreditation, students usually cannot seek financial aid from the state or federal government.
That’s not the case with ITT institutions, a company official told the group.
“Our program is being accredited by the U.S. Department of Education and our students would qualify for federal financial aid,” said David Loose, in charge of ITT’s regulatory affairs.
Even cosmetology schools get approved by the Education Department, said Bill Reuling, Towson University’s assistant to the provost.
“The integrity of the degree is important, so that students can take it somewhere else and use it,” said Reuling. “It is very important to protect our consumers.”
ITT charges $368 per credit hour compared to $165 per credit hour at Towson University.
The University System of Maryland, University College already has a technical education program and has the capacity to meet the state’s demand for such a program, said Nick Allen, UMUC provost and chief academic officer.
Committee members also criticized the curriculum.
Courses do not include a humanities class or any biological or physical science classes, according to the report, issued after analyzing an operating program in Springfield, Va., in August.
“The curriculum is meant to benefit businesses and technical education in the state,” said Loose.
ITT representatives also assured committee members they had 77 strong colleges in 30 other states and their program would benefit Maryland as well.
“ITT is offering programs in areas that Maryland businesses need,” agreed David Sumler, the state’s higher education commission’s academic affairs director.
The company’s commitment to diversity also was called into question.
ITT’s top management contains no blacks, and most running the company are white and male, said Gary R. Carlson, academic affairs vice president.
“In this state we are required to look at diversity in leadership,” Anne Osborn Emery, policy committee chairperson.
And although it is in ITT’s mission, “to provide education and services that can help a diverse student body prepare for career opportunities in various fields involving technology,” ITT fails to explain how it will do so.
The application is up for review again by January.