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Shank suggests new model for USM-H

March 25, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

o Myers' amendment calls for USM-H viability study

ANNAPOLIS -- Del. Christopher B. Shank says he wants a new model for the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

Shank, R-Washington, said the center should offer more programs, attract more students, cut costs and better serve the educational needs of Washington County.

Shank said the Hagerstown center could be modeled after a Southern Maryland center that has been part of a budget debate over higher education funding in the state. The center in St. Mary's County is in the district represented by Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., who is trying for the second straight year to cut USM-H funding.

Shank said he supports a budget amendment offered Wednesday by Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington, that would create a task force to determine the best model for USM-H.

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On Wednesday, Bohanan praised the entire Washington County delegation for its leadership on the issue and called Myers' amendment a "friendly" one.

The Southern Maryland center offers a blend of USM and non-USM programs. It was established in 1994 and currently hosts about 70 graduate university degree programs and about 20 bachelor completion degree programs offered by 11 universities, according to its Web site.

USM-H has grown from 12 programs when it opened four years ago to 19 programs, with plans to add two more in the next academic year.

C. David Warner III, executive director of USM-H, said the Southern Maryland center is 95 percent graduate students and is lacking in a significant undergraduate population.

"Most of what they offer there is to support the needs of the military and the Department of Defense at the Patuxent River Naval Base," Warner said. "The (naval base) pays their personnel to go to school at the Southern Maryland Regional Higher Education Center."

The naval base also rents conference rooms and classroom space at SMHEC, contributing an additional $500,000 per year in revenue, Warner said.

"You put a (Patuxent River Naval Base) near me and I would agree with Delegate Shank," Warner said.

Shank said a type of "hybrid" model for USM-H, where the center would offer USM and non-USM programs, having a lower cost per pupil and bringing in more of its own revenue would be ideal.

USM-H does raise some revenue, and the amount generated has increased steadily since its first full fiscal year of operation.

Warner said the center raised $10,000 by renting rooms in fiscal year 2006. This fiscal year, the center is on track to raise about $80,000, and its business plan calls for rental revenue to reach $100,000 in the upcoming fiscal year.

Warner said the cost per pupil at USM-H has dropped from $8,000 per student in fiscal year 2008 to $5,000 in the current fiscal year.

Bohanan has said there are centers statewide that operate on as little as $400 in state money per student.

Shank said his recommendation is not an attack on the Hagerstown center, but a way to make it more viable and ensure its long-term success.

Shank said it also was a way to keep USM-H funding from becoming such a politicized issue each year.

Shank said he and Myers are planning to tour the Southern Maryland facility after the legislative session, and have reached out to Bohanan to arrange it.

Bohanan toured USM-H earlier this year.

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