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McDaniel College's Budapest campus caught up in Hungarian political fight

The Baltimore Sun

June 30, 2017


McDaniel College has become entangled in an international dispute between billionaire philanthropist George Soros and the Hungarian prime minister that threatens McDaniel's 22-year-old satellite campus in Budapest.

The problem? The Hungarian parliament changed its higher education law in a vote widely seen as an attempt to close Central European University founded by Soros, a Hungarian-American financier. But the change has far-reaching implications for more than 20 universities around the world with campuses in Hungary — including the grand, three-story building where McDaniel students have studied the arts and business for more than two decades.

The law, in part, requires a written agreement between Hungary and a university's home country. There isn't one between Hungary and the United States, creating the dilemma for McDaniel.

Last week in Annapolis, the president of the small, liberal arts college in Westminster met with members of Gov. Larry Hogan's cabinet and diplomats from the Central European nation. The two governments and McDaniel hammered out the terms of an agreement that could assure the campus remains open — if the deal is finalized.

"I never imagined that as a small-college president I would be dealing with diplomatic relations," McDaniel President Roger Casey said.

The Budapest campus of what was then known as Western Maryland College opened in September 1994. Hundreds of students have since studied abroad in the ornate building that served as a Jewish school for the deaf and blind before the Holocaust.

More than 700 students took English-speaking classes at the Budapest campus this spring, said McDaniel spokeswoman Cheryl Knauer. Students may study all four years in Budapest to earn an American degree, and use their scholarships and financial aid there.

"A student that graduates from McDaniel Budapest, by all accord, is graduating from McDaniel in Westminster," Casey said.