Dear USM Faculty and Staff:
As you know, Governor Martin O'Malley recently submitted his proposed FY 2009 operating and capital budgets for the University System of Maryland (USM) to the Maryland General Assembly. Both budgets demonstrate Governor O'Malley's ongoing strong support for higher education.
Overall, the proposed capital budget is extremely positive. During the five years covered by the budget, USM is slated to receive more than $1.1 billion to advance key projects such as the new Physical Sciences Complex at the University of Maryland, College Park; the Oyster Cultivation Facility at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the College of Liberal Arts at Towson University; the Health and Human Services facility at Coppin State University; and the University of Baltimore Law School. Most notably, the School of Pharmacy addition at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, was advanced by a year.
The Governor's proposed operating budget supports our shared goal of providing affordable access to quality programs and services. In addition, it recognizes and supports USM's critical role in meeting workforce shortages and driving economic development. The proposal also enables USM to advance vital initiatives, such as our effort to close the achievement gap between low-income and first-generation students, and the student body at large.
A major highlight of the operating budget is the state's first-ever dedicated funding source for higher education: the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) proposed by the Governor and enacted by the General Assembly during the fall 2007 legislative special session. Funding from the HEIF will be used to enable our universities to once again hold tuition unchanged for in-state, undergraduate students. If the Governor's proposal is approved, an in-state student who entered a USM institution as a freshman in fall 2005 and who graduates in spring 2009 will have paid the same tuition rate for his or her entire undergraduate career.
All told, through general funds and the HEIF, the Governor's proposed budget increases state support for USM by 9.4 percent. Along with replacing funds needed to hold tuition for in-state, undergraduate students at current levels and maintain quality, this increase will: fully cover our mandatory costs; fund an increase of 1,529 students (full-time-equivalent) through the Enrollment Funding Initiative; increase student financial aid by approximately $7.2 million; and support workforce development in critical areas and research initiatives aimed at increasing Maryland's economic competitiveness.
The budget proposal acknowledges that a productive future for the State of Maryland is tied directly to a strong public higher education system. It also recognizes USM's pivotal role in securing Maryland's leadership in the "knowledge" economy through education, training, research, and discovery.
Of course, it has been you-the leadership, faculty, and staff of our institutions-who have made this success possible. Through your hard work and professionalism, you have elevated our university system to new heights of excellence. Through your dedicated efforts, we have aligned our priorities with those of the State of Maryland, creating a true partnership of progress with the state. Through your advocacy, you have made higher education a true funding priority. I am proud of the entire University System of Maryland "family" and thank you for all you do on behalf of the system, the state, and the students we serve.
We are fortunate that Governor O'Malley and our state legislators are firmly committed to ensuring that the University System of Maryland, and indeed all of higher education in the state, is strong. Moving forward in partnership with our elected officials, and with our many alumni and friends, the University System of Maryland will continue to make the case for investing in the state's public higher education system.
William E. Kirwan
P.S. If you are in Annapolis during the legislative session or anytime through November 2008, I encourage you to visit the wonderful USM exhibit on the second floor of the Miller Senate Office Building. The exhibit recognizes the system's 20th anniversary and highlights the remarkable achievements of our campuses.