The Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly started in early January and ended on Sine Die, April 10, 2017. The General Assembly acted on more than 2,800 bills, including 187 pieces of legislation that impact higher education, in general, or the operations of independent colleges and universities. MICUA testified on numerous bills and worked with legislative sponsors and committee leaders on amendments to address concerns raised by the MICUA community.
The operating and capital budget bills passed with bipartisan support in late March. Both pieces of legislation bring good news for MICUA colleges and universities. The Sellinger Program, direct State aid to eligible independent colleges and universities, was funded at $51 million, a 9% increase over the prior fiscal-year appropriation. Despite this increase, the Program has not completely recovered from the cuts during the economic recession. In addition, the budget includes a 5% increase in need-based student financial aid. Students attending MICUA member institutions participate in the State’s student financial aid programs in the same manner as students attending Maryland’s public universities.
The State’s capital budget bill includes $9.7 million in grants for capital construction and renovation projects at three MICUA member institutions.
Goucher College will receive $4 million to design and construct a new science building to create modern laboratory spaces and interactive learning facilities for undergraduate and graduate teaching and research. McDaniel College will receive $3 million to renovate and construct portions of the Gill Physical Education Learning Center to add classrooms and laboratory spaces to accommodate the dramatic growth in the College’s exercise sciences and physical education programs. St. John’s College will receive $2.7 million to renovate McDowell Hall, which serves as the academic center of the College. McDowell Hall is a Maryland historical landmark, first constructed in 1744 to serve as the Provisional Governor’s mansion and gifted to the College by the State in 1784. The State’s investment in these MICUA projects will leverage more than $30 million in private resources, expand higher education opportunities in Maryland, and support almost 300 construction jobs.
During the legislative session MICUA hosted Independent Higher Education Day (IHED), a day-long event on February 21, 2017 to celebrate the State's commitment to independent colleges and universities. The highlight of the day was the presentation of the prestigious and sparingly bestowed 2017 Presidents' Award to the Honorable Thomas V. Mike Miller, President of the Maryland Senate, in honor of his 45 years of dedication to higher education in Maryland.
“Over the years, President Miller has been a champion for investments in higher education – public and private. He has supported capital grants for academic buildings and operating funds to support students. He has backed legislation to make our system stronger and more effective. Maryland’s independent colleges and universities are indebted to President Miller for his leadership,” said Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., President of Loyola University Maryland.
Also on this day, students, administrators, and presidents of MICUA member institutions gathered to honor the State’s partnership with its independent colleges and universities and the options, opportunities, and outcomes the partnership brings to Maryland. Students met with and gave thanks to elected officials for their support of Maryland’s independent institutions, which serve 61,000 students and confer 14,600 degrees annually.
Greg FitzGerald, Chief of Staff & Title IX Coordinator for Notre Dame of Maryland University, has seen the benefits of IHED including internship offers, mentorship opportunities, and Delegate or Senatorial scholarship applications for students.
“Many students begin the day just taking it all in, but by the end of the day they are inspired by knowing they can make a difference and have a voice,” FitzGerald said.
Students also attended a presentation on the legislative process and a briefing on the Sellinger Program and the MICUA Capital Grant Program.