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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 1, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 24
Sellinger Aid May Get Another Hit

Change in formula would cut unrestricted monies

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

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 draft.

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 economy.

"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.


A petition to save Sellinger aid funding

The Maryland Independent College and University Association has created an online petition to Gov. Robert Ehrlich and the Maryland General Assembly to safeguard against further cuts to the Sellinger Aid Program.

To sign the petition, go to or access it through the Johns Hopkins home page at www.jhu/edu. The Johns Hopkins link also provides background information about the Sellinger Aid Program.

Participants are urged to sign soon, while the Legislature is still in session.


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