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 (PDF)
Article, §§11-105-(b)(1)-(3)). The Commission is responsible
for developing and updating biannually (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 (PDF) - (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
• 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,
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 publishes a Consumer's Guide to Private
Career Schools. No private career school may operate in
Maryland without Commission approval. Currently, 125 private
career schools operate in Maryland. Abrupt school closings
significantly impact enrolled students who have paid for
training they are unable to complete. From FY 1997 through
FY 2001, 13 schools precipitously closed before completing
the training of nearly 900 students.
• 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