Upper Marlboro. -- The State of Maryland is faced with a very exciting, and very unusual opportunity. With very little effort, it can create another major research university. This new university would join two of our state's finest schools, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, College Park, as a Carnegie I-type institution -- the highest national ranking for a research university.
Having three such institutions within a 30-mile radius will create a powerful magnet for both scholars and businesses of the 21st century. These three schools would be supported by a wide variety of other universities, colleges, community colleges, technical schools and private research facilities in the state to create a synergy that guarantees Maryland a role as a world leader in education, research and development. The economic benefit for our citizens in terms of jobs and commerce is evident.
Our vision for Maryland in the next century must be based on educational institutions that will equip our daughters and sons to compete in the world economy.
To create such a new institution from the ground up would normally cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Maryland can accomplish the same goal quickly, efficiently and at little cost by combining the University of Maryland at Baltimore and the University of Maryland Baltimore County to create the University of Maryland -- Baltimore.
This merger was unanimously endorsed by the University of Maryland's Board of Regents. And little wonder. Alone, neither institution has the resources to reach its greatest potential. In the words of the task force that studied the merger, however, the new, combined school "would be greater than the sum of its parts."
There is great enthusiasm for this proposal in Baltimore. And, Brit Kirwan, president of the University of Maryland, College Park, concurs that this merger would strengthen the University of Maryland system.
Some of my fellow faculty and administrators in College Park, however, wonder if the new institution will gobble up the state's higher-education treasury and eventually overshadow the University of Maryland, College Park.
As designed, the new institution would complement, rather than duplicate or in any way threaten, the College Park campus. The merger proposal clearly delineates the role of College Park as the "flagship" of the University of Maryland system.
In a study of the proposed merger, the Greater Baltimore Committee observed that "Maryland does not need and cannot afford two flagship institutions. Thus, it is appropriate that the proposed new university for Baltimore would be of modest size (about half that of College Park) and of sharply different focus (on the life sciences, health and technology)."
The creation of this new research university with its concentration on specific areas of study will do a great deal to enhance the reputation of the entire University of Maryland system. We all will benefit by the enhanced faculty and student body that will be attracted to a top-ranked school of this type. And, in turn, more private and public research funds will flow into the system.
On a more human scale, the new University of Maryland at Baltimore and University of Maryland, College Park can help and nurture each other. They will be less than 45 minutes apart by car. That is close enough for teachers and students to attend classes, lectures, concerts and sporting events at either of the two schools.
We are one state, one community, in one region. This proposal is good for the state, is an investment in our community and is incredibly important for the entire Baltimore-Prince George's region. It is, therefore, imperative that we raise ourselves above waging a bitter turf battle and stop advocating one's advantages while keeping others down. For the good of everyone's future, we must stop competing among ourselves and keep focused on what we in Maryland are, as well as what we can become, as the home of another prestigious and prosperous research university enjoying the highest national ranking.
Parris Glendening is county executive of Prince George's County and a faculty member of the University of Maryland, College Park.