UM system develops 7-year plan Colleges to seek more students and more funding; Mission stays unchanged; Chancellor wants schools to be more tightly knit


A strategic plan for the University of Maryland system would demand three things from its campuses over the next seven years: more students, more work and more revenue.

The university's Board of Regents will meet today at Frostburg State University and is poised to approve the outline. While campus chiefs and faculty have expressed some reservations, system officials forestalled major criticism by soliciting their opinions in writing the plan.

University officials assume relatively flat budgets. They're not expecting big infusions of state money, but Gov. Parris N. Glendening has promised to avoid the severe and disruptive mid-year cuts the system received in the early 1990s.

The plan retains the "1 percent tax" requiring each campus to return to the system administration 1 percent of its annual budget. Administrators have used that money to pay for projects involving collaboration and coordination among campuses.

This move is part of chancellor Donald N. Langenberg's continued push to make the schools function more as a tight-knit family than a loose federation, to use his words.

"I see a strong document that sets a future direction that is very clear," said M. Jane McMann, chairwoman of Towson State University's health sciences department, and the past president the UM Faculty Council. "It sets, for the first time, a very solid strategy for moving forward as a system."

But the plan is also notable for what it does not do. It does not call for any change in the conception of the University of Maryland College Park as a flagship university seeking national eminence. Nor does it specifically spell out what each campus should do. That's been left to the colleges themselves.

Instead, the eight-page proposal, dubbed "Vision III," calls for the university system to:

* Accommodate a projected surge in state high school graduates by absorbing 20 percent more students -- roughly 20,000 undergraduates, roughly equivalent to the size of Towson State University.

* Require each campus to generate an additional 20 percent (in inflation-adjusted dollars) more in 2002 than it does now through private gifts and grants and contracts.

* Require an additional 20 percent in increased productivity from its campuses by the end of the seven-year period.

That last plank is no mean feat, considering that no one, including Dr. Langenberg, has figured out how to measure productivity when it comes to higher education. But he said the system would find such a barometer -- and then boost its reading.

During a two-hour interview at his offices in College Park, Dr. Langenberg sketched out his priorities for the state's public universities. (St. Mary's College and Morgan State University, while publicly supported, are separate from the University of Maryland system.)

Dr. Langenberg called for a sharpened entrepreneurial spirit, with universities reaching out more to industry throughout the state and the region. That, taken with the demand for more outside income, reflects his belief that the nation's public campuses must mimic their private counterparts in seeking out revenue to support their activities.

In addition, campuses should play up their existing strengths, Dr. Langenberg said. For example, the University of Maryland Baltimore County would focus even more on its instruction and research in engineering, math and science under the tenets of the strategic plan.

State Del. Howard P. Rawlings III, the Baltimore Democrat who heads the influential House Budget Committee, said the outlines of "Vision III" would help stabilize the university, but the system would not be able to achieve national prominence under it without a significant infusion of state dollars.

Vision III for the University of Maryland

Here are explanations of the three policy directives that drive the so-called "Vision III," the proposed University of Maryland strategic plan that will guide the 11-campus system into the year 2002.

The university system will absorb 20 percent more students than the 106,000 undergraduates it currently serves. That's about 20,000 undergraduates, a little more than Towson State University's student body.

Why: The state is experiencing a "baby boomlet" in which tens of thousands more Maryland high school graduates are projected each year within the next decade.

What it means: Towson State and Bowie State University would shoulder most of this burden. Frostburg State University and University of Maryland Baltimore County also might expand slightly.

But many of these students are expected to be nontraditional students -- commuters and part-time students -- and system officials expect to rely heavily on new technology. For example, engineering courses could be beamed via satellite from UM-College Park and UM-Baltimore County to students at Frostburg State classrooms.

The University of Maryland system will require a 20 percent increase in productivity from its faculty and staff.

Why: Officials realize they are being asked to do more with little additional money, and parents and state officials have been demanding more accountability from public universities.

What it means: Uncertain. Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg acknowledges there is no consistent definition of productivity in higher education, and he has not adopted any particular way to measure it.

By 2002, the 11 campuses of the University of Maryland will be expected to attract 20 percent more in outside dollars -- gifts, grants and contracts -- in constant dollars above what they do now.

Why: Although it now appears able to avoid the deep cuts of the early 1990s, the University of Maryland predicts minimal increases in state funding of its campuses. For example, the General Assembly has allocated $560 million for the system for this academic year; the system has proposed the state spend $575 million next year -- an increase of 2.7 percent.

What it means: A lot of pressure on campus faculty to step up efforts for research contracts, and even more pressure on college presidents to glad-hand potential donors.

For the year ending June 30, the UM system won grants and contracts totaling $374 million. In the same time, the schools attracted private gifts and pledges of $84.4 million. College Park is perhaps best positioned to pursue such outside funding, as it has attracted just under one-half of the system's totals.

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