During Meeting with Local Leaders at the College of Southern Maryland
As part of their tour of Southern Maryland naval bases, Senator Ben Cardin (D) and Congressman Steny Hoyer (D) stopped by the College of Southern Maryland, July 2, for lunch and an informal roundtable discussion at CSM's La Plata campus.
CSM President Bradley Gottfried welcomed the Senator and Congressman and thanked them for taking time out of their schedule to visit with local leaders. Workforce and economic development, health care, education and energy were just some of the topics elected officials, community, civic and business leaders addressed with Senator Cardin and Congressman Hoyer.
Mike Besche, a member of CSM's Foundation Board and CEO of Besche Oil, and Lock Wills, President of the Wills Group, both noted that rising petroleum costs were a major concern of local residents and businesses. Senator Cardin noted that becoming energy independent was one of the goals of the Senate this year. “Being dependent on others is not good for our nation's security, and it economically changes the decisions people make about travel and business. The travel industry is already feeling the pinch of fewer people taking vacations; businesses are deciding whether to relocate to where the cost of doing business is less,” said Cardin. “Making a concerted effort to use less energy is going to be a big part of the solution but we also have to look into emerging technologies such as solar, wind, nuclear, new forms of ethanol and biofuels. We are going to need to develop a comprehensive energy approach,” said Senator Cardin.
“Energy affects everyone in this room… proposals like ANWR (opening sections of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to development) are controversial and we need to realize that our nation's petroleum resources are limited,” said Congressman Hoyer. “Hydrogen has been discussed but since it takes as much energy to produce as it provides, it is of limited use. Likewise, converting coal into liquid is very expensive. We need to explore not only our energy options but their potential impact,” said Congressman Hoyer.
Christine Wray, CEO of St. Mary's Hospital, said that workforce development was the second biggest obstacle facing healthcare (behind cost). Congressman Hoyer responded that, “part of the challenge of living in a free-market, global economy is staying competitive. Community colleges, like the College of Southern Maryland, are critical to our nation's continued growth because they provide an affordable option to students pursuing career fields such as healthcare. Over 2 trillion dollars will be spent this year in the U.S. on healthcare. We want to keep care private but at the same time we have to address the efficiency and cost while maintaining the quality of care patients receive,” said Congressman Hoyer.
According to Gottfried, “CSM is trying to maintain tuition at its current levels despite tuition increases that are affecting institutions around the country.” Gottfried wondered what Hoyer and Cardin thought of a proposal that would effectively increase Perkins grant funding for workforce development programs like those at CSM.
“Most members of Congress and the Senate support the improvement of Perkins and Pell grant opportunities for students. Too many families are facing the pressure of providing their children with a college education,” said Senator Cardin. Education costs are “also affecting the career choices students make [Students] are looking at affordability but also for careers they can step into immediately,” Cardin concluded.
Both Cardin and Hoyer thanked CSM for hosting lunch and the roundtable discussion. “The college has an incredible reputation for creating workforce development programs that accentuate the quality of life in Southern Maryland. This visit has really opened our eyes to many of the challenges facing this region and it will help us return to Washington with some fresh ideas on how to serve our constituents,” said Cardin.
For information call 301-934-7766 or 301-870-3008, Ext. 7766 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7766 for St. Mary's County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7766 for Calvert County or visit http://www.csmd.edu.