Governor supports making room for advanced STEM degrees in Montgomery -- Gazette.Net



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Engineers and dentists in training may soon be able to get four-year degrees in Montgomery County.

Governor Martin O’Malley (D) has recommended funding the design and construction of a fourth building on the Universities at Shady Grove campus, near Shady Grove and Darnestown roads in Rockville.

O’Malley recommended in his capital request last week spending $5 million next budget year for initial planning for what is being called the Biomedical Sciences and Engineering Facility, and a total of $159.2 million over the next five budget years for all planning and construction costs.

The 220,000-square-foot expansion of the campus will bring engineering, dentistry and additional bioscience and biohealth degrees to a county that is focused on expanding workforce opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), said Stewart Edelstein, executive director at USG and associate vice chancellor of the University System of Maryland.

“The building is very much aligned with the priorities and the needs of the region for a trained workforce,” Edelstein said.

It is one of O’Malley’s goals to expand the STEM degree offerings in the University System of Maryland, he said.

The campus, established in 2000, pulls in more than 75 programs from nine institutions in the University System of Maryland so residents can study locally.

The campus expansion will help Maryland make progress on a goal set by the Obama administration to boost college completion rates, William E. Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, told editors of The Gazette on Wednesday.

In Maryland, 45.5 percent of people age 25 to 34 had a postsecondary degree in 2010, and the goal is to bring that to at least 60 percent by 2020, according to a July U.S. Department of Education press release.

“This will add the level of degree program that will make a difference in Montgomery County, and the state’s economy,” Kirwan said.

The number of students and programs offered at USG has been steadily increasing; the student population has grown from about 2,200 in 2006-2007 to about 4,000 in 2011-2012.

With the expansion, the campus expects the number of students to nearly double, to 7,500 or 8,000 students, Edelstein said.

The fourth building will house not only the new programs, but also create room for programs currently at the campus that have seen their enrollment grow, such as nursing and pharmacy, according to the budget proposal.

The Montgomery County Council approved $20,000 for a new parking garage on the campus, to support the growth.

The building has been in the plans all along, Edelstein said, adding that after this building is completed, there still will be room for four more. The next priority would be expanding the research opportunities on the campus, he said.

Edelstein is pleased to see the commitment from the governor and elected officials in the state and the county during the tough economic times.

“It’s a capacity builder,” he said, “and especially important to the state and Montgomery County.”

jbondeson@gazette.net