The powerful president of the Maryland Senate proposed Monday that two of the premier campuses in the state’s public university system merge into one in coming years.
University regents would be required to develop a plan and come up with a timeline for the possible merger of the system’s flagship campus at College Park and the University of Maryland Baltimore, under a proposal by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert).
Miller presented the idea Monday afternoon to a Senate budget subcommittee, which adopted language into its spending plan incorporating the president’s proposal.
The idea would need to be embraced by the full Senate and House of Delegates before taking effect and would face several additional legislative hurdles in future years.
“It’s a remarkable opportunity we have here,” said Miller, who noted that he holds degrees from both institutions, which he said have started collaborating more recently on their own.
University System of Maryland Chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan said in an interview Monday afternoon that Miller’s proposal was “a matter we’re more than willing to take a look at. ... It’s a matter of looking at the pros and cons in our specific context.”
Miller said he expects other university officials to be supportive. A spokeswoman for House leadership had no immediate reaction.
Miller cast the idea as a way to increase the prestige and clout of both institutions.
As separate universities, for example, College Park is currently ranked 44th nationally in total research expenditures, while UMB is 45th, Miller said. Combined as a single institution, they would rank 10th, ahead of the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University, he said.
According to the budget language offered by Miller, “the two institutions are complimentary and have few if any duplicative programs.”
College Park has major undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs with a significant research component, the proposed language says. UMB has seven professional and graduate schools which train the majority of the state’s lawyers, physicians, nurses,dentists, pharmacists and social workers.
Under the budget language, the first report on the possible merger would be due Dec. 15.
The House is expected to adopt it version of the state budget this week. The full Senate plans to act after that. Any differences in the two proposals — including Miller’s plan — would be negotiated by a joint House-Senate conference committee.
This post has been updated since it was first published.