Major funding from state moves plans for one building forward, poses challenges for another
In a major step to enable Towson University to meet the needs of its students and the state, Governor Larry Hogan has included in his just-released budget $162.8 million in funding for a new building for the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics.
Hogan's budget, which is a starting point for Maryland lawmakers, provides planning and building funds beginning in fiscal year 2017. If fully approved by the legislature, the funding continues for construction through fiscal year 2020.
"We're extremely excited that the governor is willing to make a significant investment in the education of the next generation of Maryland's STEM professionals," said Fisher College of Science and Mathematics Dean David Vanko. "Towson's new science building is designed for 21st century learners. It integrates technology, promotes collaboration, enables authentic research experiences for both undergraduate and master's students, and will attract and retain high quality faculty dedicated to serving students."
State lawmakers had deferred funding for the 316,000 square foot building for the last two years. The inclusion this year comes as a result of focused, long-term efforts from the late President Emerita Maravene Loeschke '69/'71, Interim President Timothy J. L. Chandler, and Vanko, as well as Towson alumni, students, faculty and supporters.
"We thank Governor Hogan and his staff for acknowledging and supporting Towson’s tremendous need for a new science facility in this year’s proposed capital budget," said Chandler. "This new building for the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics is a major step toward fulfilling the state’s need for more STEM majors and graduates, and recognition that Towson is a leader in those efforts for Maryland.”
Conditions in Smith Hall, where most of Towson's science and math classes are taught, have deteriorated beyond reasonable repair since it was built in the mid-1960s. Enrollment in the Fisher College of Science and Mathematics has more than doubled in the last 20 years, and STEM majors continue to grow in popularity at Towson. Without the funding for a new building, Towson was facing a critical inability to meet those students' needs and the needs of the state workforce in STEM fields.
The building for Fisher College is one of two capital funding projects Towson needs. Enrollment in the university's College of Health Professions has also more than doubled, but the governor's proposed financial plan pushes back until fiscal year 2020 any funding for a new building for that college. At present, the college's classes are held in seven buildings scattered across Towson's campus.
That college's needs will now be a renewed focus for Kim Schatzel, who begins as Towson's president on Jan. 25.
"I want to thank Dr. Chandler and everyone at Towson, the University System of Maryland, and in Annapolis for the significant advocacy that made the governor's funding for Towson's new science building a reality," said Schatzel. "Now we must turn our attention to a new health professions building, the other half of Towson's STEM workforce production, so we can continue to provide the qualified, capable health professionals that Maryland needs."
Towson has already planned for both buildings in its newest master plan. The new science and mathematics building would be built between the 7800 York Road building and Stephens Hall.
The governor's budget is subject to committee and floor revisions and votes before funding is final.