BALTIMORE, SEPT. 21 -- Leaders of 11 of the 13 state-supported colleges and universities disclosed details today of a plan to consolidate public higher education into a new University of Maryland system governed by a powerful board.
At the same time, the presidents and chancellors asked for a substantial increase in state financing: 20 percent over current levels for every year in the next five.
Endorsed in principle last week by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, the plan is expected to be the framework used when legislators begin work in January on a measure to reorganize the state's higher education system. Schaefer has said the state's 13 colleges and universities would not get significant aid increases until a reorganization is in place and can provide more accountability to his office.
Two presidents -- from Morgan State University in Baltimore and St. Mary's College in southern Maryland -- oppose the plan.
Some other educators and politicians have resisted the consolidation of higher education, citing it as a particular threat to the distinctiveness and future of traditionally black institutions, such as Bowie State College and Morgan State.
State officials, looking for ways to limit duplication of programs and costs, have embraced the concept of a superboard that could streamline the system at a time of soaring costs and declining enrollment. This year's budget for higher education is $615 million.
The college and university leaders stressed today that their institutions would maintain their individual characters and names while sharing academic programs, faculties and other resources.
"It's using the total resources of the state in the best way," University of Maryland President John S. Toll said after leading a news conference at the Baltimore campus.
Under the current system, four trustee boards appointed by the governor oversee the state schools along with a loosely organized state agency, the Maryland State Board of Higher Education.
The University of Maryland has its own Board of Regents, a president, and a chancellor at each of its campuses. Another board oversees the University of Baltimore, Towson and Frostburg state universities, and Bowie, Coppin and Salisbury state colleges.
Morgan State and St. Mary's operate under individual governing boards that report directly to the state, and officials there have not embraced the consolidation plan.
The new plan is aimed at streamlining the educational bureaucracy by making the University of Maryland Board of Regents the superboard overseeing the entire system. Regents would be appointed for five-year terms by the governor.
A chancellor, appointed by the board, would lead the system and would serve as Schaefer's key contact for higher education issues.
Individual schools, including Coppin State College and Towson and Frostburg state universities, would have their own presidents, as well as boards of trustees to implement the policies established by the top board. The state board also would have the authority to hire and fire top officials.
St. Mary's President Edward Lewis said last week that he was concerned about any plan that weakens the governing boards at individual campuses, saying they are crucial for fund raising and long-range planning.
"The best people will not come to an institution unless they have autonomy," Lewis said.
But James Lyons, president of Bowie State, said his school stands to benefit from a new spirit of cooperation, rather than to lose out to others in the intense competition between institutions for dwindling state resources.
"We'll all be on the same team," Lyons said. "We'll all sit at the same table and divide the pie."