Democratic gubernatorial candidate William Donald Schaefer yesterday proposed a consolidation of academic programs at Maryland's public colleges and universities and increases in scholarship funding for in-state students.
The Baltimore mayor, in a 21-page position paper released at the opening of his Montgomery County headquarters in Rockville, proposed that the General Assembly's influence over university budgeting be weakened.
"The system itself appears to be neither coordinated nor unified," Schaefer said of the 13 four-year institutions and 19 community colleges that make up the publicly sponsored Maryland higher education system.
As with his economic development position paper presented last week, Schaefer gave no specific recommendations for how programs such as tuition cost containment and marketing programs aimed at attracting academically high-ranking students would be funded.
"There is nothing in here that says you're going to take money from here and put it there," said Schaefer. "What you have is a blueprint for education."
He described Maryland as a "wealthy state" that will have enough new revenues generated through normal growth to pay for some new programs without tax increases.
Schaefer's opponent in the Democratic primary, state Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs, characterized the proposal as "generalizations that everyone's been agreeing on for a long time."
"It is good that the mayor is finally addressing some issues even if it is by position paper and press release rather than by discussion and debate," said Sachs, who has made a campaign issue out of Schaefer's refusal to meet him in a televised debate.
Del. Nancy Kopp (D-Montgomery), a legislative champion of increased funding for higher education whom Schaefer identified as his chief education adviser, said she met with Schaefer to discuss support for the state's public colleges and universities. By eliminating the duplication of several courses of study within the university system, she said, there will be automatic cost savings.
She cited as an example Bowie State College, which because of its proximity to the University of Maryland's planned science and techology center could benefit by focusing more of its curriculum on high-technology subject matter to prepare students for jobs in that industry.
"It seems to me a very appropriate role to make a more modern, relevant campus to fulfill the economic development needs in that area," she said.