Morgan State Accuses Towson University Of Duplicating Its Business Degree Program

The HBCU claims that Towson is attempting to boost its status as a research university by copying Morgan’s doctoral program in business.

Two universities in the state of Maryland are in a battle over similar degree programs.

Morgan State University has alleged that Towson University is guilty of duplicating its doctoral program and is requesting the intervention of state legislators.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the battle stems from the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s decision in June to allow Towson University to offer the doctoral program in business analytics, which has reignited a long fight that HBCUs have been having with the state’s public universities.

In response to the Commission’s ruling, President David K. Wilson of Morgan State penned a letter to several legislative leaders including Democratic State Sen. Brian J. Feldman, chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Energy and the Environment, and Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, claimed that “Towson University seems to be attempting to boost its status as a research university by copying Morgan State’s programs.”

“As president of Morgan, I’m urging some intervention in the [Maryland Higher Education Commission] review process by the legislature until an agreed upon process to mitigate undue academic program duplication in Maryland is put in place,” Wilson’s letter read. “Failure to address and redress the issue will only lead us back to the past.”

Wilson also said that Towson University has proposed another program that would replicate Morgan State’s Ph.D. in bioenvironmental science.

Maryland HBCU Lawsuit Settlement of $577 Million Approved by Lawmakers

According to a federal lawsuit filed in 2006, HBCUs throughout Maryland have struggled to compete for students and resources when compared to the state’s public universities. In 2021, Morgan State along with Bowie State University, Coppin State University, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, was awarded a total of $555 million in extra funding over a 10-year period for “Maryland allowing nearby historically white universities to add similar degree programs.” The funding began in 2023.

When Towson University submitted for approval of their degree program, the Maryland Higher Education Commission said that all of the proper procedures and protocols were followed in January 2023.

On Feb. 25, Morgan State submitted an objection to Towson’s business analytics doctoral program noting that Towson’s proposed full-time research program would be extremely similar to the doctoral program in business administration that Morgan has offered since 2001. Additionally, both programs “will train students to teach classes in the fields of information systems and supply chain management, as well as prepare students to share their research findings.”

In April, Towson’s request was denied by  Emily A. A. Dow, the higher education commission’s assistant secretary for academic affairs, because the program was “unreasonably duplicative of two specific concentrations within the Ph.D. Business Administration program at Morgan.”

Dow argued that Towson’s program would cause “demonstrable harm” to Morgan State which is just four miles away.

“Prospective students may likely view the proposed program as a viable option with similar objectives and similar job prospects to Morgan’s existing program,” Dow stated. “If Towson’s program were to be approved, there would be a potential shift in enrollment from Morgan to Towson.”

In June, Dow’s ruling was overturned according to a letter from Mary Pat Seurkamp, chair of the commission who said that “the commission decided in a split vote of 4-3.

The commissioner’s ruling claimed there was not enough evidence that Morgan State would be negatively impacted by Towson’s program.

“The decision is based upon the determination…that Towson’s proposed program is not unreasonably duplicative of Morgan’s Ph.D. in Business Administration generally or of the concentration in Supply Chain and Logistics Management,” Seurkamp wrote. “The majority found that while some elements of the programs were similar, ultimately the two programs have distinct differences in their curricula. This finding was made with the understanding that Towson’s admission criteria for the program are geared toward students who have a STEM background. Furthermore, we found that there was insufficient evidence of demonstrable harm to the existing program at Morgan.”

Following the commission’s decision,  Atterbeary plans to meet Wilson and the leaders of the Higher Education Commission later this month.

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