With the fall semester scheduled to begin Monday, Towson University will withdraw its plan to establish a business analytics doctoral program.
The school’s decision, according to a statement released Friday from spokesperson Sean Welsh, is based on the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s request last month for institutions to “pause” new degree proposals if an objection is raised by another university.
Earlier this month, the Office of the Attorney General advised the commission that it did not have a valid majority when four members voted in June to approve the degree program over the objection of Morgan State University.
“As we have since the start, TU will continue to follow the process and guidance outlined by MHEC,” Welsh said in an email. “The finding of this administrative error on MHEC’s part does not indicate that TU’s STEM-based Business Analytics Ph.D. program — capped at six students annually — is in any way duplicative of any other program, nor does it have any impact upon the merits for the program’s approval.”
Morgan State University President David K. Wilson has said Towson’s program mirrored a similar business administration doctoral program at his historically Black college and university in Baltimore.
Wilson and HBCU advocates criticized the commission’s prior approval of the Towson program because they argue it goes against a $577 million settlement the state reached two years ago to increase funding and educational opportunities at the state’s four HBCUs over the next decade. Legislation also required the state to study the “capacity and capability of MHEC to conduct academic program reviews under current policies and practices.”
Patrick B. Hughes, chief counsel for opinions and advice in the attorney general’s office, concluded in an Aug. 17 letter that the commission’s vote in June didn’t follow the proper process and, thus, the commission’s decision was moot.
Hughes wrote in an advice letter to new commission Chair Catherine “Cassie” Motz that the 4-3 vote “was of no effect” because at least seven people on the 12-member board didn’t vote in favor or against the Towson program.
The chief counsel recommended the commission should meet again to “resolve Towson’s request for review.”
Although Towson decided to withdraw its plan, Sharon Blake, a spokesperson for the Maryland HBCU Advocates who criticized Towson’s proposal, said another meeting to review the decision wasn’t necessary.
“It became clear to us as advocates…that it had to be a majority of the 12-member commission [and] not a majority of seven people to get a majority vote. Therefore, no formal action could be taken,” Blake said in an interview Friday. “I think Towson did the right thing to withdraw. It was the best possible outcome for all parties.”
Wilson released a statement one day after Hughes’ advice letter. A Morgan State spokesman said in an email Friday the president’s statement hasn’t changed.
“We look forward to moving beyond this episode and continuing to focus our attention on the more than 140 academic degree programs at Morgan, many of them offered exclusively at our University,” Wilson said. “Morgan is moving forward, unfettered, on the path to very high research university status, dedicated to examining many of the intractable challenges of our day and committed to providing research-based solutions that will benefit our city, state and nation.”
Meanwhile, a legislative work group that is reviewing the state’s degree approval process will hold its second meeting Sept. 19. The group co-chaired by Sen. Nancy King (D-Montgomery) and Del. Stephanie Smith (D-Baltimore City) and was formed by the General Assembly this year. A report is expected to be released by December.
Towson plans to resubmit its program proposal “at a later date once there is greater clarity regarding the academic program review process,” Welsh said in an email. “We strongly believe that our program is not duplicative of MSU’s Business Administration Ph.D., and that offering the Business Analytics Ph.D. will benefit students and Maryland as a whole.”