ANNAPOLIS- Maryland’s public universities run in the middle of the pack in getting the most for their money, but the state’s community colleges lag far behind other states.
Those were among the conclusions of a report released Tuesday by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, a Colorado-based organization that analyzes higher education in the United States.
The report found that what it counted as Maryland’s three public research institutions – the University of Maryland, College Park, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Maryland, Baltimore – ranked 28th in the nation for what the survey regarded as efficient use of funds, or getting the most out of the education dollar.
The state’s 10 other public institutions that the survey defined as bachelor’s and master’s degree granting ranked 21st in the efficiency analysis.
However, when the results for the state’s private institutions are factored in to the survey, Maryland’s ranking zooms to 6th in the nation, thanks largely to Johns Hopkins University and the huge amount of money it gets in research grants.
Only Utah, Massachusetts, Colorado, California and North Dakota rank above Maryland for overall system efficiency.
The rankings were determined by judging performance relative to funding, said Patrick J. Kelly, senior associate at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and one of the report’s authors. Kelly said the study is simply “a policy tool” and the correlation between education quality and amount of funding is still “the big question of higher education.”
“[Maryland has] high levels of funding and fairly high levels of performance,” Kelly said. “Given its level of funding, it performs about what you would expect.”
The worst ranking went to the state’s community colleges. The survey found that only Alaska, Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Connecticut rank below Maryland in community college effectiveness.
Kelly noted “some key variables” concerning public institutions and community colleges are missing, which could influence the results. For example, data indicating how well “regional institutions are serving folks in the area” are just not available.
Barbara Ash, research director at the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, agrees that part of the problem with the community college ranking is “what is reported.” The Maryland Higher Education Commission “hasn’t had the information available to see what students are actually doing,” she said.
Clay Whitlow, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, said the report fails to consider the differing missions of community colleges. Whitlow said many students want to transfer to a four-year institution and others may just want to take a couple of classes for work, he added. These goals are not part of the study’s performance calculation.
The University System of Maryland anticipates a $3.7 billion budget for 2007. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. reserved about $1.4 billion for the state’s colleges and universities, making higher education the fourth largest category in his budget, according to the office of the governor. Ehrlich also pledged full funding of the Cade Formula of Community Colleges at about $14.5 million.
Earlier this month, the Maryland Board of Regents also voted to increase tuition at most campuses by 4.5 percent for next year.
In the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems report, the measure for funding included state and local appropriations and tuition. To judge performance in all states, the authors looked at such factors as degree productivity, graduation rates and total research expenditures per faculty member.
In 2004, the University System of Maryland launched its Effectiveness and Efficiency Project with the hope of saving $26.6 million by June 30 of this year. According to David H. Nevins, chairman of the Board of Regents for the university system, the system is “on target.”
“We will have that implemented in the next months,” Nevins said. “We are already at about $20 million.”
Nevins said ideas for saving money at the system’s 13 institutions come from both university leadership and the Board of Regents. The board oversees the implementation of these money-saving programs, Nevins said. The projects include “something as simple as combining a couple of functions on a specific campus where there was a duplication or something as complicated as shortening time for a degree,” Nevins added.