Dear University of Maryland Community,
The Maryland General Assembly concluded its 445th legislative session last week, continuing its strong commitment to higher education, campus initiatives and infrastructure. On behalf of our students, faculty and staff, we advocated strongly for increased compensation for our dedicated employees, greater financial aid support for students, and facilities investments across our beautiful campus. The investment we continue to see by leadership in Annapolis is a reflection of the value placed on public higher education and the flagship institution of our state, and I am pleased to provide the following overview to our community.
The General Assembly adopted Governor Wes Moore’s budget for public higher education as introduced, including funding for a merit pool as well as 2% COLA that would go into effect on July 1, 2023. This year’s budget also includes funding for Sustainable Maryland in the College of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and the Institute for Public Leadership in the School of Public Policy.
This year’s Capital Budget funds a number of key projects that will advance our academic and research enterprise, support our students and community, and enhance our existing campus infrastructure. Totaling more than $70 million in funding, these projects include continued construction of the new chemistry building; the first year of construction for Zupnik Hall; renovations for Hornbake Library; graduate student housing; and ongoing support for campus facilities renewal projects. In addition, more than $70 million was also pre-authorized for future fiscal years to fund the Health and Human Sciences complex, graduate student housing and the Institute for Health Computing.
The University System of Maryland tracked 159 bills with an impact on higher education. Some examples of bills passed by the General Assembly related directly to the University of Maryland and higher education include:
- USM Board of Regents - Quasi-Endowment Funds - SB 426 - This bill allows the USM Board of Regents to create an investment of up to $150 million for need-based student financial aid. This “quasi-endowment” will be invested and managed to last in perpetuity, with only annual income used for the specified purpose.
- Higher Education - Appointment of Secretary and Student Financial Assistance - Accommodations at Public Institutions for Religious Beliefs - HB 923 - This bill alters the selection process for the Secretary of Higher Education; alters the eligibility requirements and simplifies the process for the Guaranteed Access (GA) Grant component of the Delegate Howard P. Rawlings Educational Excellence Awards (EEA) program; and codifies protections for religious beliefs on campuses across the state.
- Public Senior Higher Education Institutions - Reproductive Health Services Plans - Requirements - HB 477 / SB0341- This bill requires UMD, in consultation with students, to develop and implement a reproductive health service plan, to provide or refer students to a comprehensive range of reproductive health services.
- “Sip and Spit” - Use of Alcoholic Beverages for Educational Purposes - SB 672 / HB 987 - UMD’s new Fermentation Science major in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources includes classes where students learn through tasting. Under current law, students who are under 21 years of age cannot register for and or participate in courses that present, offer or provide access to and tasting of alcoholic beverages. This legislation allows students to “sip and spit” fermented beverages in upper level classes under the supervision of the professor, thus allowing all students to complete their degree on time.
- Maryland Native Plants Program - HB 950 / SB 836 - This bill establishes the Maryland Native Plants Program, which will be administered by the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Extension (UME). The program will develop a Commercial Maryland Native Plant List, and create a voluntary certification program for growers and retailers; a “Maryland Natives” marketing program; and a “Maryland Native Plants” webpage. This bill also creates a new position with funding for UME to hire a native plants specialist.
In addition, the state prioritized strengthening its gun safety measures, an issue of personal importance to me since launching the 120 Initiative as gun violence recently emerged as the number one killer of young people in our nation. This is an urgent public health crisis that cannot go unaddressed, and we appreciate state leadership prioritizing the safety of all Marylanders.
We are grateful to Governor Moore, the General Assembly and staff for their dedication to making this a productive legislative session addressing important higher education issues.
Thank you to all of our community members on campus and beyond who advocated for our university in Annapolis, including USM officials; faculty, staff, students and administrators; our Alumni Association; and our UMCP Foundation Board of Trustees. I would also like to give special recognition to Ross Stern, Executive Director of Government Relations, and his team of Virginia Meehan, Molly McKee-Seabrook and Amina DeHarde. None of this would have been possible without their tireless work to share timely and accurate information, consistently championing our campus and its people this session.
As a result of our collective work and as the state’s flagship institution, we will continue to move Maryland Fearlessly Forward.