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UMUC President Javier Miyares last year convened a group of external leaders to study such upcoming challenges as lagging enrollment, tightening budgets and increased competition in the online-education arena. (File photo)

UMUC moving forward with plans to seek ‘greater flexibility’ from state

The University of Maryland University College is moving forward with plans to change the school’s business model, although the details are still far from concrete.

But after soliciting input from the university community, UMUC President Javier Miyares officially ruled out several options that had been considered earlier this year, including privatizing the school or leaving the University System of Maryland.

Instead, Miyares settled on this course of action: remain a public, nonprofit institution and a member of the University System of Maryland, but seek certain reforms to make UMUC more competitive.

According to UMUC spokesman Bob Ludwig, Miyares worked with USM Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan to develop a preliminary framework for those goals, which was presented Nov. 7 at a town hall meeting for faculty and staff.

Under that framework, UMUC would create a management board of military, business and academic leaders to help advise the university about how to increase enrollment beyond military personnel and in-state residents — which make up the majority of its student body.

The plan also calls for seeking permission from the Board of Regents, and perhaps the state legislature, for UMUC to be exempt from certain policies that govern state agencies, including universities.

Miyares was not available for comment Wednesday, but he’s said he thinks UMUC’s growth and competitiveness is stifled by certain state regulations, primarily those regarding human resources policies and procurement procedures.

“Sometimes it takes months to secure contracts and that kind of thing,” Ludwig said. “And I think in order to be more nimble and competitive on a national and international level, we want to be more nimble in some of those areas.”

Additionally, Ludwig said state agencies are prohibited from providing employee bonuses.

“And when you’re talking about trying to attract talent, I think those kinds of compensation structures would help us do that,” Ludwig said. “We hope to be provided with greater flexibility to develop policies that can help us compete globally.”

The next step is to present the preliminary framework to the USM Board of Regents. Ludwig said he’s not sure of the timetable, but that he hopes any issues that arise will be taken up by the General Assembly in the legislative session that begins in January.

The process of restructuring the university began late last year, when Miyares convened a group of external leaders to study the challenges that lay ahead for UMUC — namely, lagging enrollment, tightening budgets and increased competition in the online-education arena.

The group suggested a number of potential actions, and recommended that UMUC become a “not-for-profit, public business entity.”

Miyares has called that report “a springboard,” though he never endorsed any of the potential actions nor the final recommendation. Rather, his message has been that he would wait and see what the UMUC community had to say.

Over the past four months, Miyares has met multiple times with faculty, students, alumni and other stakeholders to solicit input about the recommendation and the other potential options.

“It was clear from those meetings that the community wanted us to remain and public institution and remain with the university system,” Ludwig said. “So Javier feels happy with the process and he’s comfortable moving forward with this plan.”

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About Alissa Gulin

Alissa Gulin covers health care, education and general business at The Daily Record.