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Miller wants to explore merging universities

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller on Monday proposed studying the idea of merging the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore into a single University of Maryland.

The proposal, which was adopted in budget language by a Senate subcommittee, would have to be approved by the Maryland General Assembly. Miller’s proposal calls on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents to study the concept and develop a plan by December on how a merger could be carried out.

“UMB has few undergraduate programs and there are no public flagship research institutions with the level of research carried out by UMCP that do not have a medical school and a law school as a formal part of the institution,” according the proposal adopted by a Senate budget subcommittee. “The two institutions are complimentary and have few if any duplicative programs.”

The University of Maryland, College Park is the state’s flagship institution of public higher education with more than 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The University of Maryland, Baltimore has more than 6,000 students and is home to seven professional and graduate schools that train the majority of the state’s doctors, nurses, dentists, lawyers, social workers and pharmacists.

“Combining the two institutions into one world-class research and medical institution would encourage and facilitate seamless cross disciplinary cooperation, research, and interaction by removing those barriers that typically exist between institutions,” according to the proposal.

The proposal also underscores that the ultimate benefit would come from expanded research and educational opportunities from a merger that could make Maryland more competitive with other public colleges and universities in attracting research grants and contracts.

“It would increase the number of doctoral degrees. It would increase benefits for faculty. It would increase the number of research dollars. It would just be a win-win for the state,” Miller said.

Sen. Jim Rosapepe, a Democrat whose district includes the University of Maryland, College Park, said the proposal to merge the two universities was “certainly worth studying.” However, he said the Board of Regents needs to carefully evaluate what a merger would mean for students, faculty and staff at both campuses.

“It would automatically boost the combined campus’ ranking as a major research university, and it could create synergies of value to students, researchers, and the public,” Rosapepe said in a statement. “But bigger isn’t always better. As we’ve seen on Wall Street and in Washington, organizations can get ‘too big to succeed.'”