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Dr. David Wilson, president of Morgan State University. (File)

Hogan’s budget a mixed bag for Md. higher ed

Gov. Larry Hogan’s fiscal 2017 budget proposal, which includes about $6.3 billion in total higher education expenditures, is getting a mixed review from university officials.

That figure represents a 3 percent increase over last year, and while some are pleased with modest increases in funding others say their needs aren’t being met.

“It’s a good budget for the university system,” said Andy Clark, the University System of Maryland’s assistant vice chancellor for government relations. Not only does it cover the essential costs, but it includes additional funds for some special targeted initiatives, he said.

Hogan’s proposal contributes $1.3 billion in state funding to the university system’s overall budget of $5.28 billion, including $6.8 million to help college students graduate more quickly.  USM Chancellor Robert L. Caret has identified college completion — specifically, getting more students to graduate and to do so in four years — as one of his top priorities since taking office last year.

Tuition growth at USM schools, as well as Morgan State University and St. Mary’s College of Maryland, is capped at 2 percent.

Clark praised the commitment that both the governor and the legislature have shown in past years to keeping tuition affordable.

As the budget process continues, Clark said, the university stems will be “in defensive mode,” working to maintain what the governor has proposed.

Hogan’s budget also includes increased funding for Maryland’s community colleges — but not as much as officials hoped.

The administration proposed $251 million in formula and grant funding for the 15 community colleges financed under the Cade formula, up from $239 million in fiscal 2016.

After several reductions in the funding formulas over recent years, the Maryland Association of Community Colleges has called for an increase of $26 million per year over the next four years, which it says would bring state support for the Cade community colleges and for Baltimore City Community College up to their intended level by 2020.

Hogan’s fiscal 2017 budget is a step in the right direction, said Bernard Sadusky, the association’s executive director. “It’s good news,” he said. “It could be better, but it’s good news.”

Sadusky was also pleased with the nearly $60 million in capital funding included in the budget, which will cover 13 projects, including two — a new students services center for Montgomery College and the renovation of a Community College of Baltimore County health and technology building — for which funding wasn’t anticipated this year, he said.

But the capital funding still falls about $20 million short of what community colleges need to meet their construction needs, Sadusky said.

Morgan State University President David Wilson said that while he appreciated the $90.7 million set aside for his school in Hogan’s proposal — a slight increase over the previous year that includes $1.4 million in new funding for need-based financial aid — it’s won’t be enough.

“[It] is not even close to the amount of additional state support we need at Morgan,” he said, adding that additional operating funds would help reduce the course load for the research university’s overtaxed faculty.

Wilson is also disappointed in the capital budget.

Morgan State will receive $35.7 million in capital funds to finish construction on a new behavioral and social sciences center. The university didn’t receive additional funding for a much-needed new administration building despite receiving $1.6 million in design funding last year, Wilson said. The current building should have been razed decades ago, he said.

“I will be asking the governor and legislators to rethink the Morgan appropriation on both the capital and the operating side,” Wilson said.