Two Maryland Higher Education Commission Leaders Encourage Pause in Pursuit of New Degree Programs
Acting Secretary Sanjay K. Rai and commission Chair Catherine “Cassie” Motz of the Maryland Higher Education Commission are suggesting that colleges and universities in the state pause their pursuit of new degree programs if another institution objects. This recommendation comes after a challenge to the creation of a new business program at Towson University by the leader of Morgan State University, which was ultimately approved.
Transformation of the Commission
The commission is currently undergoing a transformation with new leadership and a legislative review of its policies. This suggestion by Rai and Motz is part of the ongoing effort to improve the approval process for new programs.
A Voluntary Pause
In a memo dated Tuesday, Rai and Motz stated that while the voluntary pause is strongly encouraged when an objection is received, it is not required. However, they believe that this pause could lead to improved opportunities for Maryland’s students in the long term.
New Leadership Appointments
Acting Secretary Sanjay K. Rai was appointed by Maryland Governor Wes Moore in April, and Catherine “Cassie” Motz was appointed on Monday. These appointments reflect the administration’s commitment to bringing equity to the board’s decision-making processes.
Workgroup for Improving the Academic Approval Process
A workgroup, established after the approval of House Bill 200, will assess the commission’s approval process and suggest changes. The workgroup consists of the secretary of the commission and lawmakers from the House Appropriations, Senate Budget and Taxation, and Senate Education, Energy, and the Environment committees.
Expected Changes and Recommendations
The voluntary pause in contested program approvals is recommended as the workgroup is expected to suggest changes that will improve the commission’s approval process. The goal is to find a way to prevent duplication of programs and reach an agreement among all stakeholders.
New Membership for the Commission
The commission is also introducing a nearly entire new board. Governor Wes Moore recently announced the appointment of former college presidents, educators, and nonprofit leaders to the commission. One more member needs to be appointed to complete the 12-member commission.
Scrutiny and Opposition
The commission has faced scrutiny after approving Towson University’s creation of a doctoral business analytics program, which was criticized by Morgan State University President David K. Wilson. Wilson argues that the program duplicates a doctoral business administration program at his historically Black college and university.
Continued Collaboration and Reform
As the commission participates in the General Assembly’s workgroup, the memo from Rai and Motz suggests that institutions may want to reconsider MHEC’s review of an academic proposal when an objection is submitted until the workgroup prepares its report with recommended changes. The commission looks forward to collaborative efforts with the workgroup and all stakeholders to reform and improve the academic review process.