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Donoghue: USM-H task force waste of time

July 01, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- The purpose of a task force studying the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown is being disputed, and Del. John P. Donoghue, one of the group's newest members, says the study group is a "waste of time."

Donoghue, D-Washington, said Tuesday the findings of the task force, which met for the first time last month, are irrelevant.

"We all know that we deserve the money," Donoghue said of USM-H funding. "We don't need everyone telling us what we need to do. We know what we need to do. We know as long as myself and Senator (Donald F.) Munson (R-Washington) are in office, (we will work to get the money)."

Donoghue made those statements last week when he was not a member of the task force. However, an updated list of the 22-member task force was provided Monday to The Herald-Mail.

The list includes Donoghue. Other members of the task force include Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, Munson, Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr, and other state and local business, education and community leaders.

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This year's legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly marked the second consecutive year USM-H was considered for budget cuts, leading Myers to suggest a task force be formed to study USM-H. The task force will meet again in July and August before submitting a report to state lawmakers in September.

Myers said he disputed Donoghue's claim that the study group was a "waste of time," and said the first meeting already has produced ideas for improvements, such as the addition of graduate classes and an expanded nursing program.

"As a delegation, we will continue to pursue the funding for USM-H as long as it's needed to whatever level is needed to operate USM-H," Myers said. "However, the purpose of the task force is to show the General Assembly how we can think of other ways to put students in classrooms."

However, Donoghue said he does not believe the task force's report will help USM-H avoid the funding battles of the past two years.

"We have all the facts," Donoghue said. "There's nothing new. There's nothing to prove. We are part of the (University System of Maryland). We're doing well. We're proud of it. The turf battles in Annapolis will go on all the time ... we'll do the same battle all over again."

Task force goal



Andrea Mansfield, assistant secretary of finance policy for the Maryland Higher Education Commission, is facilitating the task force and said she also disagrees the task force is a waste of time.

Mansfield said the group is meeting to produce a report with recommendations to "kind of build support for the center ... bolster the argument for why funding should not be reduced at the center. That would help the center in defending itself."

The group's official charge is to "study the fiscal and programmatic viability of USM-H." The group is to consider the most appropriate governance structure for the center, look at strengthening the center's relationship with local community colleges and consider expanding program offerings.

Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's, worked with Myers to include the task force requirement in the state budget, and on Wednesday, Bohanan said he was glad to hear work was under way.

Last year, Bohanan pushed to eliminate all $2.1 million for fiscal year 2009 for USM-H and spread it among several non-USM higher-education centers, including one in his district. Under the proposal, USM-H might have received $700,000. The House and Senate negotiated a compromise that restored $2 million to USM-H.

This year, the House recommended a $500,000 cut for the downtown Hagerstown campus, while the Senate voted to increase its funding by 1 percent in fiscal year 2010. A compromise was reached to maintain full funding for USM-H, but spread $900,000 among six other higher education centers in the state, including the Southern Maryland Regional Higher Education Center, which is in Bohanan's district.

The six non-USM regional higher education centers in the state operate on less state money than USM-H.

"Take a look at this, and see if we can determine what makes sense to safeguard the future and the funding (of USM-H) and have an efficiently run regional higher education center," Bohanan said of the task force. "From my perspective, that's good."

Bohanan said he hopes the task force report will be considered before USM's next budget is prepared.

However, Donoghue said he does not expect any of the task force's recommendations to protect the center from state budget controversy or sway Bohanan from seeking equity among the regional higher education centers.

Bohanan declined to comment on Donoghue's remarks.

Task force membership



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