Maryland has unveiled a longrange plan for higher education that calls for tougher admissions standards, decreased enrollment and inflation-proof tuition rates at College Park in an effort to persuade more top high school graduates to seek state university diplomas.
Today, more than 50 percent of Maryland high school students graduating with "A" averages leave the state for college. And only eight National Merit Scholars - out of 250 a year graduating from Maryland high schools - are enrolled in state colleges, according to the state Board of Higher Education.
Meanwhile, board studies indicate a large number of students who do enroll in Maryland schools - up to 50 percent on some capuses - are dropping out before obtaining a bachelor's degree.
The new plan, drawn up by the 11-member education panel after four months of sometimes stormy meetings with educators, budget analysts and state agencies, would reduce freshman enrollment at College Park by 27 percent by 1983 and eliminate 250 places from entering classes at Towson State University.
Admissions would be tightened at all four-year schools under new standards for prospective students based on College Board scores and high school grades. Many schools now admit any state high school graduate.
The plan, adopted by the board Thursday, also would correct inequities in state funding among state schools. And it recommends an increase of $39 million next year in the current higher education budget of $243 million. Regular 8 percent increases would follow in subsequent years, under the plan.
Under the new funding guidelines, state aid to the College Park campus would rise from $49 million to $58 million next year, and would reach $77 million by 1984.
Increased state aid to College Park could keep tuition rates at their present levels over the next four or five years, and consequently induce talented students to avoid the high cost of attending more exclusive private colleges, according to Frank Schmidtstein, the board's director of research and planning during development of the plan.
Educators also believe that a smaller student body and stricter admissions requirements will convince more A students to enroll at College Park and other state schools, Schmidtstein said.
The new plan would set state funding of colleges and universities at 70 percent of each school's budget by 1983, Schmidtstein said.
Now, the state's share of school costs ranges from a high of 77.6 percent of the budget at the University of Maryland. Baltimore County, to a low of 50.3 percent at the University of Baltimore, a discrepancy Schmidtstein calls "inexplicable."
State aid to College Park made up 66.7 percent of the school's budget this year, Schmidtstein said. The recommended increases in state aid to the school over the next four years are necessary to meet the 70 percent guideline, he said.
The plan also suggests that state support for community colleges be increased from $800 per student to $900 each.
The higher education board has the leverage to enforce many recommendations, Schmidtstein said, because it is responsible for making all budget recommendations for state colleges and has veto power over new state programs.
But some education officials are already doubting whether the board's budget guidelines will be accepted by the General Assembly.
"This is an election year, and after the effects of California's Proposition 13 (which restricts property taxes) we're not as optimistic (about the fund requests) as we'd like to be," Schmidtstein said. "The political climate is not for increases."
The board's program would gradually reduce freshman classes at College Park from the 5.500 students of last year to 4,000 by 1983, lowering total enrollment from 25,500 to 22,200.
An earlier draft of the plan outlined an even larger enrollment reduction - to 3,500 freshmen by 1980 - but was revised after protests by College Park administrators, Schmidtstein said.
In compensation for the smaller freshmen classes at College Park and Towson State, the plan projects enrollment increases at the University of Maryland branches of Baltimore County and Eastern Shores, St. Mary's College, Morgan State University and Bowie State College.
To encourage the flow of new students to these schools, the plan suggests that a few unspecified academic programs from the more crowded campuses be transferred to the smaller schools.
Schmidtstein said program shifts under consideration would move the School of Social Work from the University of Baltimore and the journalism school at College Park to the Baltimore County campus.
The plan also calls for creation of a branch of the University of Baltimore Law School at Bowie in addition to an undergraduate program in nursing.
Schmidtstein said that $90,000 in start-up funds are included in the board's budget recommendations for next year for the new Bowie facilities.