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USM-H viability study group holds first meeting

June 23, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- A task force studying the viability of the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown met for the first time Tuesday at the downtown campus on West Washington Street.

The first meeting drew about 20 education, business and community leaders from state and local agencies. There will be three meetings, one each month through August, and officials said the task force will submit a report to state lawmakers when its work is completed.

USM-H Executive Director C. David Warner III said he hopes the report will help end attempts by some state lawmakers who in the past two years have tried to cut the center's budget.

USM-H is one of eight regional higher education centers in the state, two of which are in the University System. USM-H offers 19 programs and will begin offering two more in 2010. It spends about $7,550 per student on its 247 full-time students.

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USM-H escaped major funding cuts in fiscal year 2009. During this year's debate over fiscal year 2010, Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Allegany/Washington, suggested a task force be formed to study the center. The proposal was included in the state budget, which included full funding of $2,028,000 for USM-H in fiscal year 2010.

Warner said cuts to the system as a whole cost USM-H some funding, and its total budget allocation from the state in fiscal year 2010 will be $1.89 million.

Myers and Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, are among the 15 members of the task force. Both attended Tuesday's meeting, which focused on an overview of USM-H's history and funding.

Warner said the center has been growing consistently since it opened in 2005. He said the task force formed only because of attempts to cut funding for the four-year-old center the past two years.

USM-H is the newest Maryland regional higher education center and the third largest, he said.

Discussion at the task force's July meeting will focus on the campus' relationship with local community colleges, Washington County Public Schools, businesses and local government.

At its August meeting, the task force plans to discuss any unresolved issues and its recommendations and findings.

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