University of Maryland President John S. Toll announced a comprehensive plan yesterday to improve the troubled University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus. The plan includes a proposal to offer honors graduates guaranteed admissions to professional schools.
Toll, who took office at Maryland on July 1, also said he wants to improve UMES by implementing several new academic programs and by seeking a $10 million to construct new classrooms, laboratories and dormitories.
At the same time, Toll told me the news conference, he expects UMES to retain its identity as a predominantly black institution.
"I would expect to attract people from all ethnic categories and from all over the state," Toll said. "But the tradition of the school is clearly going to be maintained as one that is attractive to good black students."
Between now and 1985, he said, he would like to increase enrollment from the present 950 to 1,500. White students would likely account for much of the increase, he said, but the school would still be predominantly black.
Now about 80 percent black. UMES was part of the black division of Maryland's state college system when colleges were segregated by law before 1954. It is currently one of the issues involved in length litigation between the state and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's Office of Civil Rights.
In that litigation, currently pending before the Supreme Court, Maryland has sued to block a cutoff of U.S. funds, disputing the government's contention that it is illegally operating a dual system.
Officials at the Office of Civil Rights said they would have no comment on the plan, but they noted that HEW guidelines contain no blanket prohibition against predominantly black institutions.
Unveiling a 45-page prospectus for UMES.Toll said the honors program would be part of an overall effort to attract top academic talent to UMES, long plagued by low academic standards.
Admission to that program would be highly competitive and academic standards rigorous, he said, but a student who completed it would be able to enter the university's medical school or law school without facing the highly selective professional school admissions process.
Similar programs of guaranteed admission to graduate schools exist in other states. Toll said, but his proposal for UMES would be unique for Maryland.
Among the new academic programs to be located at UMES would be a program in poultry technology management, an institute for small and part-time farmers, a program in hotel and restaurant management, special education, marine, environmental science, construction management technology and engineering technology.
Top faculty members and scholars from the university's four other campuses would be tapped on a loan basis to help develop many of these programs.
His goal, Toll said, is to make UMES "a campus of equal prestige and equal in academic quality to the other campuses of the university." By 1990, according to the prospectus, it could be "one of the leading public universities of the century."
Often considered the stepchild of Maryland higher education, UMES has been plagued in recent years by underenrollment and high student costs.
It has been a frequent target of legislative attacks including one two years ago in which a legislative budget analyst said it should be shut down and its programs moved elsewhere because per student costs - then more than $6,500 a year - were too high.
Other critics have urged that UMES, located in Princess Anne, be merged with Salisbury State College, a predominantly white institution just 12 miles to the north.
Part of the state college system until 1970, UMES became a campus of the university in that year and officials hoped the prestige of the university would enable it to improve its image, attract more white students and improve its academic standing.
But with frequent criticisms and suggestions that the school be shut down, morale remained low and students, unsure of the school's future, were reluctant to enroll.
"This state of uncertainty has impeded the development of UMES," Toll said, adding that he hopes adoption of his prospectus by the State Board of Higher Education will make UMES "a center of academic excellence."
Since the report of the legislative analyst, Toll noted, per student costs at UMES have dropped to $4,203 as enrollment has risen by about 200. He would like to get costs down to $3,468 by 1984, he said.
To implement the new programs he seeks, Toll said, the UMES state budget would have to increase from $4.25 million to $5.2 million by 1984, using current dollar values.
In describing his prospectus, Toll turned down a suggestion by a special study commission that the university consider moving the entire school of agriculture from the College Park campus to UMES.
"Such major program transfers appear to be neither feasible nor desirable, Toll said. "There are better ways of increasing enrollment and strengthening UMES." CAPTION: Picture, JOHN S. TOLL . . . asks $10 million building program