The Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC or Commission) is an independent agency created in 1988 and given responsibility for the planning, supervision and coordination of Maryland's postsecondary education system. (Education Article, §§10-207, 11-105).
The Commission consists of twelve members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. One member is a student, serving a one-year term. All other members are appointed for five-year terms. The Commission has two standing committees: the Finance Policy Committee and the Education Policy Committee. The Commission sets the policies and activities to be carried out by agency staff. The Secretary of Higher Education serves at the pleasure of the Commission and acts as Chief Executive Officer of the agency, performing various duties assigned by the Commission and overseeing the agency's permanent staff of 80 employees. (Education Article, §§11-102, 11-104).
Commission responsibilities include the following:
State Plan for Postsecondary Education- (Education Article, §§11-105-(b)(1)-(3)). The Commission is responsible for developing and updating quadrennially (with appropriate stakeholders) a State Plan for Postsecondary Education. The State Plan describes statewide workforce needs and lists goals and strategies for meeting those needs. The State Plan guides all Commission planning and decisions regarding budget recommendations and academic programs.
New Colleges and Universities - (Education Article, §§11-201-11-205). There are strict academic and financial standards governing the start-up and continuation of new colleges or universities in Maryland. No college or university may operate in Maryland without Commission approval. In addition to the institutions listed, a total of 18 out-of-state colleges (University of Phoenix, Strayer University, DeVry University, etc. are reviewed and granted approval if state standards are met.
Academic Programs - (Education Article, §§11-206, 11-206.1). When the Commission considers requests to implement new academic programs, it looks closely at whether the program is consistent with the institution's educational mission and whether other Maryland colleges or universities already offer the program. A sixty-day review process is in effect for all institutions of higher education. Annually, the Commission reviews and approves on average approximately 250 certificate and degree programs.
Mission Statements - (Education Article, §§11-302, 11-303). Every public college and university has a mission statement which is reviewed and approved by the Commission. It describes who the institution teaches, what area it serves, its admission standards, and what academic areas the campus specializes in. Mission statements guide decisions concerning new academic program development and budgets. Mission statements build on each institution's unique strengths and help avoid unnecessary program duplication.
State Desegregation Plan - (Education Article, §§11-105(f)). The Commission is responsible for implementing a plan to eliminate the vestiges of Maryland's former segregated higher education system. Maryland's current five-year plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights in December 2000, and makes specific commitments on behalf of the State to improve educational opportunities for African American students and enhance Maryland's four historically black institutions (Morgan, Coppin, Bowie and UMES).
Operating and Capital Budget Recommendations § (Education Article, 11-105(i)(2. The Commission is required to present to the Governor and the General Assembly a consolidated operating and capital budget for higher education. This consolidated budget includes the operating and capital budget requests of the governing boards and institutions, the operating budget request of the Commission, a report on the current funding of the adopted sets of peer institutions, and recommendations regarding the funding of higher education.
Funding Guidelines and Peer Performance - (Education Article, §§10-207(5) and 11-105(h)(4) and (i)(2)). The Commission established funding guidelines for the four-year public institutions (excluding St. Mary's College) to assess the adequacy of operating funding for higher education based on comparisons with peer institutions. The goal is to fund Maryland institutions within the upper quartile of their peers. To provide accountability under the guidelines, the institutions select 10 peers and develop performance measures to compare the performance of Maryland institutions against peers.
Capital Budget Priorities - (Education Article, §§11-105(i)). The Commission annually establishes capital budget priorities to be used to evaluate capital budget requests.
Aid to Community Colleges - (Education Article, §§11-105(c) and 16-305). The Commission administers the formula-based aid program that provides State funding to community colleges. The John A. Cade funding formula for community colleges is calculated based on 25% of the State aid per full-time equivalent student at selected four-year public institutions times the number of community college students. Due to budget constraints, the percentage was decreased to 23.1% for FY 2003 and FY 2004 and 24% for FY 2005. It is scheduled to revert to 25% in FY 2006. The community colleges also receive State funding through a number of grant programs.
Aid to Independent Colleges - (Education Article, §§17-101-17-107).
The Commission administers funding to eligible independent colleges and universities through the Joseph A. Sellinger funding formula. The annual aid is calculated by multiplying the number of full-time equivalent students enrolled at the independent institutions by 16% of the prior year's State general fund appropriation per full-time equivalent student at selected four-year public institutions. Due to budget constraints, the percentage was decreased to 14.3% for FY 2003 and FY 2004 and 15.2% for FY 2005. It is scheduled to revert to 16% in FY 2006. Seminarian and theological programs are excluded from the aid computation.
Student Financial Aid - (Education Article, §§10-207(8), Title 18). The Commission's Office of Student Financial Assistance administers 23 financial aid programs totaling almost $83 million in FY 2003 and providing assistance for almost 46,000 students to attend college. Need-based aid makes up slightly more than half of the total State financial assistance. Service-based programs, which require students to work in certain fields after graduation, make up almost 30%. Merit-based aid accounts for around 6% of the total.
Private Career Schools - (Education Article, §§11-201-11-205). The Commission serves as the State's regulator of private career schools. It sets academic and financial standards and takes legal action when necessary to protect students. It posts Private Career School performance to this website. No private career school may operate in Maryland without Commission approval. Currently, more than 150 private career schools operate in Maryland. Abrupt school closings significantly impact enrolled students who have paid for training they are unable to complete.
Data Collection - (Education Article, §11-105(h)). The Commission establishes and maintains a higher education information system to assist in the development of statewide higher education policy. The Commission conducts research, collects and analyzes data and regularly publishes reports on postsecondary education.
Accountability - (Education Article, §§11-304 -11-308). The Commission annually reviews accountability reports from public colleges and universities (independent colleges and universities submit reports voluntarily) and prepares a consolidated document for the Governor and General Assembly. These reports track progress toward common and individualized sets of goals and objectives in areas such as graduation, retention, minority enrollment and achievement, accessibility and affordability, diversity, regional economic and workforce development, community outreach and service, and efficiency.
Regional Higher Education Centers - (Education Article, §§11-105(d) and (i)). The Commission recommends and administers all State operating funding for Regional Higher Education Centers not operated by the University System of Maryland. The Commission has established a framework for funding and efficient use of these centers. The six centers are located in Harford County; Southern Maryland; Waldorf; Eastern Shore; Shady Grove (USM) and Hagerstown (USM).
P-20 Leadership Council - Along with the Governor, the State Superintendent of Schools, the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, the Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, and the Secretary of Business and Economic Development, the Secretary of Higher Education serves as on the executive committee of the Governor's P-20 Leadership Council of Maryland. The Council is a forum for the education and workforce creation leadership of the state to address joint concerns, including current work on career & technology education, school leadership, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
Advocacy and Outreach - The Commission provides vision, leadership and balance to higher education and acts as an advocate for institutions and students. The Commission's Office of Student Financial Assistance actively participates in workshops and college fairs throughout the State in order to disseminate information to students, parents, high school guidance counselors, college financial aid officers, and legislators. Other outreach activities include: focus groups, public service announcements, publications and promotional material, direct mailings, and web links to colleges and other agencies.
Educational Grants - (Education Article, §§11-105(e) and (l), 11-701, 17-201-17-306). The Commission administers a number of educational grant programs funded by general funds, special funds and federal funds. Examples of these programs include: Access and Success, Early Intervention/College Preparation Grants, Private Donation Incentive Program, Diversity Grant, and Retention and Incentive Grants.