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University System of Maryland at Hagerstown funding safe for now

House Appropriations Committee approves current funding formula for non-USM centers

March 22, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — Future funding for the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown appears safe again  after another attempt to divert money from it has been abandoned in the state legislature — at least for this year.

Earlier in the Maryland General Assembly session, Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary’s, renewed his quest to direct more money toward six higher-education centers outside the university system at the expense of the two centers inside the university system.

Under his proposal, USMH stood to lose about $1 million, or more than half of its operating budget, in fiscal  2014.

But Bohanan’s bill was revamped, no longer affecting the university system, before the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved it on Wednesday.

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Bohanan had proposed giving $200,000 in base funding to all eight regional higher-education centers — inside and outside the university system — then adding additional funding based on various factors, such as student enrollment. The changes would begin in fiscal 2014.

But, in the amended version of the bill, Bohanan abandoned that approach.

Instead, the bill calls for a current funding formula for non-USM centers to become law instead of policy.

Another change — in the House version of the proposed state budget, rather than the bill — also was a factor. The university system will have to use $1 million of its budget in the next fiscal year to help create new programs at the non-USM higher-education centers.

The $1 million restriction is not in the Senate version of the budget. That, and other proposed cuts to the university system, will be resolved through a House and Senate conference committee before this year’s 90-day session adjourns next month.

In recent years, Bohanan has tried to use USM funding as leverage to get more money for the six non-USM centers, including one in his district.

He said those six centers combined received $1.75 million in funding in 2009. In the current budget, that total is down to $1.5 million.

The amended version of his latest bill only goes part of the way toward helping his cause, he said, noting there probably will be another effort next year.

Patrick J. “P.J.” Hogan, USM’s vice chancellor for government relations, while examining the amended version of the bill on Thursday, said it appears to satisfy the university system’s concerns about Bohanan’s proposed funding overhaul.

He said that USM already offers educational programs at all six non-USM centers, in addition to the two USM centers at Hagerstown and Shady Grove.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, said changes to Bohanan’s bill keep USMH safe, after a nearly annual struggle.

“It’s the same thing that happens every year,” he said.

Bohanan tried in 2008 to do something similar, through the budget process instead of a bill. His proposal then would have redirected as much as two-thirds of USMH’s $2.1 million funding at the time to non-USM centers.

Almost all of that funding ultimately was restored through budget negotiations.

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