The state should postpone plans to expand engineering programs at two universities and to add new programs at three historically black colleges because the changes might further segregate Maryland's college system, the state's higher education secretary says.
The recommendation by Maryland Higher Education Secretary Shaila R. Aery followed a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that declared Mississippi's college system unconstitutional in part because some programs were duplicated at historically black and white schools.
The ruling sent a message to several other states, including Maryland, that they must do more to wipe out vestiges of segregation in their public universities.
The Maryland Higher Education Commission is expected to approve Dr. Aery's recommendation, which would halt plans to expand engineering programs at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Morgan State University.
Dr. Aery also proposed delaying a long-range plan to add new majors and programs at three historically black institutions: Coppin State College in Baltimore, Bowie State University in Prince George's County, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Somerset County.
At Coppin, for example, the plan calls for adding master's programs in applied psychology, cognitive instruction, teaching and information technology, as well as a bachelor's degree in information technology.
The delay would give state lawyers a chance to examine the far-reaching court decision, Dr. Aery said.
"We just want to take a little time to sort things out before we step forward and change things by adopting new programs," said William F. Howard, an assistant attorney general involved in educational issues.
Maryland's higher education system has been under federal review for civil rights violations since 1969. Federal education officials are assessing the state's efforts to meet a 1985 desegregation plan.
The Supreme Court, in an 8-1 decision in June, said that state higher education officials have an "affirmative duty" to eradicate past college segregation. That may require closing some colleges, shifting funding and programs and broadening the standards to judge students' college ability, the court's opinion said.
The only dissenter, Justice Antonin Scalia, said the ruling was so complex that he suspected no one would have "the slightest idea how to apply" it, and predicted it would lead to years of new lawsuits.
The Education Policy Committee of the Maryland Higher Education Commission is expected to consider Dr. Aery's request tomorrow. The commission must approve plans to offer any new degrees at state colleges and universities.
Morgan began an engineering program in 1984. UMBC began its program one year later.
Morgan, which opened a new engineering building last fall, has graduated 135 students in electrical, civil and industrial engineering. The historically black university now wants to begin offering master's and doctoral programs in engineering.
UMBC, which opened its own new engineering building this year, would like to begin offering electrical engineering as an undergraduate major and to expand existing graduate programs.
Officials of the two universities have fretted for years that there would not be enough state money to support two full-fledged engineering programs in the Baltimore area.
"There is no question that Morgan's engineering program has not to this point reached an appropriate funding level," Morgan President Earl S. Richardson said in testimony sent in April to a task force studying state engineering offerings. "It is not reasonable then to provide for the establishment of new programs in electrical engineering before ensuring that existing programs have adequate resources."
The task force, citing a continuing need for engineers, recommended that both schools be allowed to expand their engineering programs.
Maryland Higher Education Secretary Shaila R. Aery proposes to delay new or expanded offerings on five Maryland campuses:
* Bowie State University -- Bachelor's degrees in nursing, computer graphics, accounting, international business, environmental sciences, criminology and African-American studies, and master's degrees in applied behavioral sciences and teaching.
* Coppin State College -- Bachelor's and master's degrees in information technology, and master's degrees in applied technology, cognitive instruction and teaching.
* Morgan State University -- Master's and doctoral degrees in engineering.
* University of Maryland Baltimore County -- Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and expanded graduate engineering programs.
* University of Maryland Eastern Shore -- Bachelor's degrees in civil and electrical engineering and master's degree in agriculture.