Author Topic: Maryland Law Lets Colleges Veto Competitors' Classes  (Read 500 times)

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Offline Kamaji

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Maryland Law Lets Colleges Veto Competitors' Classes
« on: September 07, 2023, 09:02:54 pm »
Maryland Law Lets Colleges Veto Competitors' Classes

Colleges and universities in the state are required to get approval when they want to offer new degree programs.


Certificate of Need (CON) laws, often criticized by libertarian thinkers, require that health care providers ask permission from state regulators before adding new programs and facilities. In practice, that often means running a gauntlet of objections filed by competitors. The result can be state-enforced cartel arrangements that protect inefficient incumbents, slow innovation, and leave consumers with fewer and less attractive choices.

Maryland has hit on a unique way to extend this bad idea. Not only does it have a CON law for health care, but it also applies the format to higher education. In particular, it requires colleges and universities that want to offer new degree programs to ask permission from the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) and invite objections from rival institutions.

The commission says it currently reviews and approves "on average approximately 250 certificate and degree programs" a year. Notably, its gatekeeping function is not limited to state colleges and universities but extends to private institutions as well.

One listed ground for objection gets straight to the point: "unreasonable program duplication which would cause demonstrable harm to another institution." A competitor can also argue that there is no need for the contemplated new program because the employment picture for graduates in a specialty is only holding steady, not expanding—as if graduates do not find work across state lines.

There are many other potential trip-ups. As part of its approval process, the agency reviews whether the new program is consistent with Maryland's quadrennial State Plan for Postsecondary Education, as well as the strategic plans that the state requires private and public institutions to have in place.

A university seeking to defend its new program proposal might have success arguing that it will serve new and different students, perhaps because its campus is geographically remote from that of the jealous incumbent. Quaintly, it is also permitted to argue, though with no guarantee of success, that letting it proceed would help with "the advancement and evolution of knowledge in the domain or field of study."

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