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Report: Keep USM-H campus as is

November 04, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- A new report calls for the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown to continue running as it has since opening four years ago.

A task force mainly made up of government and higher education officials issued the report, which reinforces the West Washington Street campus's current operations and structure.

The report, a requirement tied to full state funding for the center, makes four recommendations.

The recommendations include USM-H continuing to work closely with local schools and government agencies. Another is to use creative scheduling to maximize the use of the facility and to consider purchasing additional space for expansion.

The task force started meeting in June. Its report was due Sept. 1, but the deadline was extended to Nov. 1.

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The final report was released to The Herald-Mail on Wednesday.

The campus' success has been a hot topic in recent years because of attempts to cut its funding.

The campus survived battles during the 2008 and 2009 Maryland General Assembly sessions with its budget mostly intact.

In 2008, Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's, pushed for more equitable funding among the state's eight higher education centers and tried to spread much of USM-H's budget to other centers.

Nearly all of USM-H's funding was restored during budget negotiations between the House and Senate.

The task force's report gives the economic and educational history of Hagerstown and Washington County and details the center's growth, programs, funding and physical space.

It mentions fundraising efforts and the center's estimated effect on downtown revitalization.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Md., whose district includes USM-H, said in a voice-mail message Wednesday that he found "no surprises at all" in the report.

"I respect the work of everybody on the task force," he said, "but my sense is that Sen. Munson and I, regardless, will have to go through the same exercise that we have (had) over the past two years, and I'm prepared for that and I know that Sen. Munson's prepared for that."

Munson called the report "extraordinarily well done and well researched" that emphasizes the center's importance.

If there's another legislative funding fight, as Donoghue predicted, the report will "buttress our case mightily."

Munson and Donoghue were among the roughly two dozen task force members.

Bohanan didn't return two phone messages left for him Wednesday.

Bohanan has said he hopes the report is considered before the next University System budget is prepared.

The report was sent to the House Appropriations Committee and senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said Geoffrey Newman, the Maryland Higher Education Commission's director of finance policy.

An Appropriations Committee staff member said Wednesday the committee hasn't decided whether to hold a hearing or briefing on the report.

Task force recommendations



The recommendations made by a task force examining the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown are:

o Keep the current governance structure at the center. Continue working closely with local colleges, the public school system, the health department, businesses and government agencies.

o Continue working with the city to attract students, businesses and economic development.

o Keep developing creative schedules to maximize use of the facility. When possible, purchase additional space for expansion. Continue raising money for scholarships.

o Continue soliciting University System institutions to provide programs at the center. Otherwise, try to get educational institutions from outside the University System.

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