The new chancellor of the University of Maryland system said yesterday that he has qualms about a state proposal to fundamentally change the route to a teaching career by eliminating undergraduate education majors.
In his first interview since starting work two weeks ago, Donald N. Langenberg said that he has examined the proposal by Maryland Higher Education Secretary Shaila Aery. As part of a broad blueprint for higher education, Aery is recommending that all prospective teachers earn a liberal arts degree, then study how to teach in a fifth year of college.
"It is a nice idea in principle," Langenberg said. "I am not sure it is the solution to our problem with training of teachers."
He also indicated that the University of Maryland's Board of Regents, which governs 11 public colleges and universities, may take a stronger role on issues, such as teacher training, that come before the state's Higher Education Commission.
Both the regents and the commission -- which oversees the university system, private colleges, community colleges and trade schools -- were created two years ago in a reorganization of Maryland's higher education system.
Until now, the two layers have had some overlapping duties, such as making budget recommendations to the governor. But they have had little working relationship.
Langenberg said he intends to ask the regents next week to take a position on Aery's proposals.
Langenberg said he and his staff are studying many of Aery's ideas. Her blueprint calls for changes in what undergraduates should be expected to know, how professors are rated, how state aid is allotted and how much colleges -- including private ones -- charge students.
Langenberg said that he favors Aery's proposal to create a state telecommunications network that could be used to offer classes to students who live far from any college campus.
He said such a network would address one of the most pressing needs he has noticed in traveling around the state during the last two weeks. He said the state must better serve part-time students, many of them adults, who account for slightly more than half of the students attending Maryland's colleges.
As for the training of teachers, Langenberg says he favors Aery's suggestion that prospective educators be required to major in a discipline outside teaching -- an idea that is gaining popularity nationally.
And he said he is not entirely opposed to five-year degree programs for some students. But he said that he fears that low-income minority students could be deterred by the extra expense of attending college for a fifth year.