The Maryland Senate approved a bill yesterday that would put Towson University's Master of Business Administration program in jeopardy, and a spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley said he is likely to sign it.
The vote was 27-19, with one senator absent.
Towson's course is being targeted by Morgan State University, a historically black public school that some officials think is entitled under federal guidelines to prevent other public schools from establishing potentially competitive degree programs.
Baltimore Sen. Joan Carter Conway's bill would allow a circuit court to overrule the 2005 Maryland Higher Education Commission vote approving the joint Towson-University of Baltimore MBA program and could end Towson's participation.
Before yesterday's vote, Sen. James Brochin, a Democrat who represents Towson, argued that lawmakers should not be pitting universities against each other.
"Is that where we want to go as a legislature?" he said. "I really honestly believe that's overreaching."
Anne L. Donahue, deputy chief of the educational affairs division of the attorney general's office, said the bill would be unprecedented nationally.
Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed a similar measure last year, but Rick Abbruzzese, an O'Malley press secretary, said the Democratic governor "is inclined to support it." The House of Delegates has yet to consider the bill.
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights in Philadelphia is assessing progress made by Maryland during a five-year desegregation partnership that ended in December 2005.
Under the partnership, the state agreed not to establish academic programs at historically white schools that were "unnecessarily duplicative" of those at historically black colleges. That was to comply with a landmark 1992 Supreme Court ruling that said such duplication perpetuates segregation.
Morgan State President Earl S. Richardson, a key supporter of Conway's measure, has in recent years fought against the establishment of new academic programs already offered at his campus in Northeast Baltimore.
Two private schools, Loyola College and the Johns Hopkins University, also offer MBA programs. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org