University System of Maryland at Hagerstown funding again at stake

Analysis: Under a proposed formula, university would lose half its budget

February 22, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

ANNAPOLIS — The University System of Maryland at Hagerstown would lose about half of its budget under a proposed new formula for the state’s regional higher education centers, according to a university system analysis.

The analysis bolsters a rough estimate Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, made last week that USMH would lose about $1 million of its $1.9 million budget.

The change would happen if a bill sponsored by Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary’s, is approved as submitted.

Bohanan is renewing his years-long fight for a more even distribution of money for all Maryland higher education centers, whether inside or outside the university system.

A hearing on Bohanan’s bill has not been scheduled.

USM Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan has vowed to fight to protect funding levels for USMH and a similar regional center at Shady Grove.


Kirwan said Wednesday that he’s still trying to set up a meeting with Bohanan to talk about the bill and funding for regional centers.

Kirwan appeared Wednesday before a House subcommittee to talk about the proposed fiscal 2013 USM central office budget. Bohanan chairs the subcommittee, but did not attend the hearing.

Bohanan has said he thinks the funding structure for regional higher education systems is unfair because the two USM centers, including USMH, get much more money than the six centers outside the system.

One of the non-USM centers is in Bohanan’s subdistrict.

Advocates for the current funding system have pushed back, arguing that USM centers can’t be fairly compared to the others.

In 2008, through the budget process, Bohanan tried a similar funding overhaul that could have resulted in USMH losing about two-thirds of its $2.1 million budget.

But each year that Bohanan or state Department of Legislative Services analysts have pressed for changes that would hurt USMH’s budget, most or all of the money has been restored by the end of the session.

In a bill he filed this month, Bohanan has proposed a formula for all eight regional higher education centers.

It starts with a base allocation of $200,000 for each center, with money added based on full-time-equivalent student enrollment, lease funding and unspecified special funding.

USMH would receive $904,691 in fiscal 2013, down from the $1,891,592 in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget, according to a Feb. 20 report prepared by USM Budget Analyst Julie Ritz.

However, Bohanan’s bill calls for the new funding formula to begin in fiscal 2014.

Ritz did not return a call for comment on Wednesday.

Kirwan and Vice Chancellor Patrick J. “P.J.” Hogan, who also attended Wednesday’s subcommittee hearing, did not know the formula would start in fiscal 2014 instead of fiscal 2013, until a reporter pointed it out.

Hogan didn’t know why the USM report shows the potential cut starting in fiscal 2013, but said he would check with the analyst.

The USM analysis shows USMH losing about half of its projected funding each year through fiscal 2017, if the Bohanan bill becomes law.

While the report projects Shady Grove’s full-time-student enrollment rising about 17 percent from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2017, USMH’s budget numbers were based on its full-time-equivalent enrollment staying at 300.

USMH’s full-time-equivalent student enrollment has increased more than 50 percent since shortly after it opened in 2005, the analysis said.

The potential 52 percent cut in USMH’s budget could force the center to close and would remove a key stimulant for downtown Hagerstown’s economy, the analysis said.

“While it is difficult to provide hard data, there is NO DOUBT that the attacks on the USMH budget for five of its seven years of operation have hindered its growth both in program expansion and student enrollment. The viability of the budget is one of the factors that institutions ask about when they consider bringing a program to USMH and the number-one question students ask at college and transfer fairs,” the report said.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, the chairman of the Washington County delegation, circulated a copy of the USM analysis on Wednesday to other delegation members, the Washington County Board of Commissioners and members of a county lobbying coalition.

Donoghue, who represents Hagerstown, said Wednesday that the situation is still “fluid” and he is working on a solution.

“It’s all falling on me,” he said.

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