Maryland state legislators are proposing a change in
the Sellinger aid formula that would in effect reduce
future funding levels on a program that provides direct and
unrestricted monies to Johns Hopkins and 16 other
independent colleges and universities.
The proposal is yet another blow to the state's
institutions of higher education because it comes at a time
when the exact dollar amount of financial support to the
Sellinger program for FY 2005 remains uncertain, despite
the call for level funding in Gov. Ehrlich's budget
Established in 1972, the Joseph A. Sellinger State Aid
Program annually awards funds through a self-adjusting
formula linked to enrollments of private institutions and
to the per-student appropriations of selected four-year
public colleges and universities.
Since 2002, Sellinger funding has been cut by 36
percent. The state budget for FY 2004 included $31.5
million for the Sellinger program, $12.6 million of which
went to Johns Hopkins. This represented a $4.9 million cut
from FY 2003, which brought the university below its 1990
per-student appropriation level.
University administrators said that any further
decreases in funding could negatively impact university
initiatives, including capital projects, equipment
purchases and expansion of academic programs. The Sellinger
program is considered vital because it's not targeted, and
the university can distribute it as it deems appropriate
— with portions allocated to student aid, research,
libraries and student services, among others.
The State Department of Legislative Services is
calling for a change in existing state law that would alter
the formula for calculating Sellinger aid, which would
reduce the amount allocated per student and freeze total
funding at current levels. The state is predicting out-year
budget deficits, and the change in law is viewed as a means
to save money in the future.
Steven Knapp, Johns Hopkins provost and senior vice
president for academic affairs, said that the state's
independent colleges and universities understand the need
for budget discipline and are prepared to equally share
needed cuts. However, he said that the proposed law change
is both unnecessary and potentially harmful to the state's
"There is no need to change the Sellinger formula
because the Legislature can already reduce the amount the
formula provides whenever it needs to do so to balance the
budget," Knapp said. "We have taken more than our share of
cuts in the past two years while the economy was in
trouble, and we certainly hope the General Assembly will
allow us to recover along with everyone else as the economy
picks up again."
Knapp said that Sellinger aid has been tremendously
beneficial and has done a great deal to give Maryland the
most highly educated work force in the nation. In Johns
Hopkins' case, Knapp said, Sellinger aid has been used to
expand education, health care and research efforts into 19
of the state's 24 counties.
"That's one reason why Maryland has fared better than
other states during the recession," he said. "By making the
Sellinger cuts permanent even as the economy recovers, the
state would be needlessly tying its own hands."
The Maryland General Assembly will vote on the FY 2005
operating budget in April.
The university has begun a lobbying effort to protect
Sellinger funds. In addition, MICUA, the Maryland
Independent College and University Association, of which
Johns Hopkins is a member, has launched a Web-based
initiative to educate the community about critical issues
impacting Maryland's independent colleges and universities.
MICUA has created a Web site, located at
which features a link to a petition that urges the governor
and the General Assembly to support Sellinger and restore
the cuts made to it in the last two years.