The state this month has recommended to cut funding from the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland, and the local higher education center’s director is not happy about it.
“Here we are in process of developing the new programs, and the other side wants to take the funding away. That doesn’t make sense,” Ben Latigo, the interim executive director of the satellite campus in California, said.
Maryland’s Department of Legislative Services suggested cutting $500,000 from the current fiscal 2020 budget of $1 million, funds to go toward the Workforce Development Initiative. It’s also requesting to take away $300,000 from the same initiative next year.
The purpose of the Workforce Development Initiative is to grow Maryland’s workforce by generating thousands of degrees in areas like cybersecurity, health care, engineering autonomous technology, robotics and artificial intelligence. It was started in 2018 when the governor provided $2 million in funding to USM’s budget.
The interim director mentioned that the rescheduled groundbreaking for a third academic building on campus is now set at April 17, an event Gov. Larry Hogan (R) plans to attend.
“You have the governor and team committed to opening the new building in April and some of these initiatives they are targeting rely on the new building,” Latigo said. “You cannot cap funding for a program while building a building to house those programs.”
Latigo said he has been working with the Southern Maryland delegation since the recommendation was announced.
Sen. Jack Bailey (R-St. Mary’s, Calvert) said this week that he opposes the recommended cuts.
“I actually met with and had a discussion with Patrick Hogan concerning this today,” he said on Wednesday about the vice chancellor of government relations for USM.
Bailey told the Maryland Independent the meetings are ongoing and the funding is critical.
“Unfortunately, I do not have a crystal ball to be able to say we’re going to get it or not going to get it,” the state senator said.
However, Del. Brian Crosby (D-St. Mary’s), who likewise cannot predict the future, said he is confident the money will be secured.
“That money is not coming out of the budget. I already had at least five meetings with stakeholders,” he said.
Crosby added that the USMSM funding is at the top of his priority list and he is working with Bailey to make sure the money stays in the budget. The delegate recalled when the state recommended to cut the funding for the entire third building last year. He said he and Bailey stepped in to save it.
The county commissioners addressed a letter on Tuesday from Joe Anderson, a member of USMSM’s board of advisers. He told the commissioners about the budget cuts and requested they send a letter in opposition to the cuts to the state delegation. And the commissioners did not hesitate to do so.
The University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland was formerly known as the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. It officially joined the public education behemoth University System of Maryland in the beginning of 2019.
“We as an institution are only six months into the budget year. You cannot do that when we have just merged,” Latigo said about the cut recommendation.
He added that it takes a while for a program to develop and referred to this as “a chicken and egg situation” because “if you don’t have funding, you are not going to develop a program.”
Latigo said the MDLS makes cut recommendations across the board after looking at where funding has been spent. “So USM hasn’t responded approving the budget cuts,” he said.
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