Aldridge’s resignation takes effect Saturday and Javier Miyares, UMUC senior vice president for institutional effectiveness will continue in his role as acting president. According to The Washington Post, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has asked University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan to release records on “enrollment and workplace practices” at UMUC.
Under Aldridge, who has served as president since 2006, UMUC became one of the largest public online-focused universities in the world, granting more than 35,000 degrees and contributing to a statewide 7 percent increase in enrollment. The college currently serves more than 92,000 students, many of whom are adults and active military members stationed abroad. And in her term, Aldridge successfully gained 10-year reaccreditation for UMUC and expanded educational programs in the state in the areas of homeland security and cybersecurity.
However, her tenure was also marked by criticism from UMUC employees that the university’s quality of education fell by the wayside to pump up enrollment and revenue.
For example, many undergraduate courses dropped from 14 weeks to eight, and the college eliminated supervised undergraduate final exams, the Post reported Thursday. In the same article, the Post reported that UMUC requested $30 million last year to amp up its advertising despite the school’s lowest faculty pay of any University System of Maryland institution.
Additionally, faculty faced administrative cuts for supplies and travel expenses and Aldrige hired a headhunter to recruit students abroad — a practice that USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan disparaged. The contact with the headhunter has ended, according to the Post.
Although employees questioned Aldridge’s actions over the years, several told the Post doing so was risky. One former employee filed a complaint this month with the state’s Office of Legislative Audits naming more than 20 university employees who allegedly were fired or pressured to leave their positions.
Aldridge did not offer an explanation for taking leave Feb. 22 or for her decision to ultimately step down from her post.
“Given all that we have accomplished over the past six years, I think this is a good time to step down,” she said in a prepared statement.
Aldridge will remain on administrative leave through Aug. 31 and will work on special projects as a UMUC special adviser under the direction of Kirwan and Miyares, according to the Post.
— Rebecca Lurye is a senior staff writer for The Diamondback