Lawmakers in the House of Delegates have substantially scaled back a Senate bill aimed at dismantling Towson University's MBA program, but the amended version still puts the new business program in jeopardy.
The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to vote today on amendments crafted yesterday by its education subcommittee.
Unlike the Senate bill - which passed last month and won the governor's support - the amended House measure would not give Morgan State University the right to fight the competing MBA in state court.
Morgan State officials argue that the state's 2005 decision to let Towson offer a master's degree in business administration violated federal and state desegregation laws since the degree was already available at Morgan, a historically black university.
The amended House bill would defer the question of how to handle future similar disputes, instead requiring Maryland Higher Education Commission to study the matter further.
Still, the House version would grant Morgan State the right to carry its protest of Towson's MBA to professional mediators and binding arbitration, leaving open the possibility that the Towson program could be shut down.
Committee Chairman Norman H. Conway, an Eastern Shore Democrat, said he would support the amended legislation, which he called "reasonable, fair and objective."
But the Senate bill's lead sponsor, Baltimore Democrat Joan Carter Conway, said the amendments were unsatisfactory and would likely lead to a contentious Senate-House conference committee if approved by the full House. "I will not accept binding arbitration," she said.
At issue is whether Maryland violated its desegregation commitments by duplicating at a majority-white college a graduate program already established at a black college. The Supreme Court has generally discouraged such duplication on the grounds that it makes it easier for white students to stay away from black campuses.