Gov. Parris N. Glendening promised yesterday to fund a major increase in construction at Maryland's 13 public colleges and universities but warned that the schools must be held to strict, higher standards.
The governor said he would release more details next month on his spending plan for classrooms, dormitories, research centers, athletic facilities and other projects. Over the past eight years, Maryland has devoted an average of $104 million a year to campus construction. This year, the state is spending $129 million.
In his speech to educators, the governor also suggested that colleges consider requiring their students to achieve "technological literacy" before graduating.
"We are sometimes sending unprepared students" into a work force that increasingly demands high-level math, science and computer skills, Glendening told the gathering at University of Maryland-College Park. "Our colleges and universities must be able to ensure that businesses in Salisbury can hire accountants, [that] high-tech firms in Prince George's can recruit computer scientists."
Glendening (D) delivered his speech as a state commission starts detailing the long-term goals and needs of Maryland's colleges to help steer budget decisions and campus planning for coming years.
Maryland institutions have struggled for years to become competitive with the nation's more prestigious public universities, a goal that many say grew more distant during the early 1990s recession that prompted deep budget cuts. Now that Maryland has a $320 million budget surplus and expects more next year, Glendening and many legislators argue that this is the time to pour more money back into campuses.
Yesterday, Glendening promised to push for an "extraordinary budget commitment" from the legislature to start reducing a backlog of construction and renovation projects that linger on campuses across Maryland.
The governor urged educators to draw up strict goals for each college and said that institutions should be measured by such standards as how their programs fare in national rankings, how much research they produce and what graduate schools or careers their graduates enter.
Glendening said that each college will be expected to develop specialties that contribute to Maryland's higher education system--such as University of Maryland-Baltimore County's emphasis on applied sciences, or St. Mary's College's focus on liberal arts.
"Some campuses will receive less, some programs will receive less if they have not articulated a vision of where they are headed," he said.
All Maryland colleges, regardless of their specialties, should consider requiring students to master basic computer processing and Internet researching skills, Glendening said.
"It is entirely reasonable for employers and students to expect us to prepare graduates to enter the world of work with the skills they need," he said.
College officials yesterday applauded the promise of more construction money. University of Maryland-College Park spokesman George Cathcart noted that the flagship campus is already undertaking a massive construction project that includes a major renovation of the student union, a new performing arts center and an addition to the business school, but he said that several other much-needed projects are still awaiting funding.
"Any additional assistance we can get would be greatly appreciated," he said.