Additional Cut to USM Budget Raises Alarm

Additional Cut to USM Budget Raises Alarm

'Long Term Damage' Could Result in Fewer Spaces for Students, Large-Scale Layoffs

March 12, 2003

University System of Maryland (USM) Chancellor William E. Kirwan expressed concern today that an additional $37 million cut to the governor's proposed budget - an amount recommended on March 11 by the Maryland House Appropriations Subcommittee - will prove "tragic" to the USM's 13 colleges and universities. Recovering from such a damaged budget, he said, will require years of catch-up that public higher education can ill afford as increasing numbers of qualified Maryland students prepare to enter college.

"Maryland's higher education leaders recognize that the state's fiscal downturn forces difficult choices," Kirwan said. "But these proposed cuts are harmful in the extreme and will do long term damage to the state's most important engine for economic growth. The state has invested wisely in higher education, and the result is a system of colleges and universities of exceptional quality. It would be tragic if the 10-year effort to build this valuable asset is undone by these budget actions. I am certain that is not the legacy our legislative leadership seeks."

Kirwan said the immediate consequences of the recommended reduction would be significant: approximately 750 lay-offs systemwide, significantly higher tuition, larger class sizes, and limits on future enrollment.

"It's the effect on enrollment that is particularly ironic here," Kirwan said. "While the General Assembly has approved a smart and far-reaching effort to strengthen K-12 education and put more of our young people on the path toward post-secondary education, it also is willing to consider a sharply curtailed budget that would restrict higher education's ability to respond to the expected surge in students. This is not rational state policy."

The governor's proposed FY 2004 budget included a disproportionately large cut to the USM - $105 million or 11 percent of its FY 2004 Current Services Budget. Although the System budget represents less than 10 percent of the state's General Fund budget, the cut to the USM represents one-third of the entire reduction to the General Fund. The additional cut proposed by the House Sub-committee would result in an overall 15 percent reduction and put the USM well below its General Fund budget level of FY 2001 - a time when it had 8,000 fewer students.

The long term consequences of these proposed cuts may be even more severe, Kirwan added.

"There is a clear and unmistakable connection between the state's significant investment in higher education and its position as a leader in the knowledge economy. To tear down the higher education excellence built up over the past decade will set Maryland on a path toward economic mediocrity. Surely a more balanced and responsible approach can be found to address these fiscal challenges."


Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739