How do they spell " relief" at Towson State University? These days not to often.The school has been hit with so much hardship lately that it has to take solace from a recent decision that the school's teacher training program might be able to keep its accreditation ( But don't bet the kids' tuition on it.)
Last March,the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education ruled that the program had too many part-time instructors and too few minority faculty members to merit the Washington firm's stamp of approval.that would be a blow to most education colleges,but especially to towson which was founded 126 years ago as Maryland's first training school for teachers.
Towson appealed,and NCATE has agreed its appraisal was flawed.It now plans to take another look at the program within a year or so.
Hoke Smith calls this the toughest period of his 13 year tenure as school president. The main source of his woes? The budget ax that has chopped $123 million in state funds from the University of Maryland System since the end of the 1980s. Of the latest system-wide cuts totaling $19.1 million, Towson's share is $2.1 million.
The cuts have had varied and harsh effects: Teachers and other staffers have been fired or furloughed.Book orders have been postponed. Buildings maintenance funds. Athletic teams have been shut down. Class sizes are up as enrollment has grown and the faculty dwindles. Dormitory occupancy is down as more students realize commuting is cheaper.
Also tuition at Towson has risen by a third in three years.For full-time students who are Maryland residents, The University's annual tuition has climbed from $1,430 in 1989 to $1,924 this year. additional fees can tack on another $1,000 to each student's overall costs. Those are still bargain prices compared to costs at private colleges,but as they keep rising ,they threaten to defeat the public university's purpose of making higher education affordable to all citizens.
Towson and other state schools, might be in for yet more blows now that the University of Maryland Board of Regents is promising structural changes to help the the system avoid regular budget cuts .The school might watch certain programs become consolidated and privatized,and Towson might well see its NCATE accreditation.These blows will hurt,but a streamlined, efficient university system would be preferable to one that's slowly bleeding to death.