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Calls UMUC "National Treasure"

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) toured University of Maryland University College's Academic Center at Largo on October 14, praising UMUC as a national leader in higher education.

In an interview with CTV (Prince George's County) following the tour, Cardin described UMUC as "not only a great state asset but an important national treasure."

UMUC President Javier Miyares and Provost Dr. Marie Cini led the tour, which began with a briefing on the university's efforts to address college costs and Maryland's completion goals. It included an update on UMUC's scholarship program that enables graduates of Maryland's 16 public community colleges to complete their bachelor's degree at UMUC for a total cost of $20,000 (including both the associate's and bachelor's degrees).

Since announcing the UMUC Completion Scholarship in December 2013, the university has processed some 1,500 applications and awarded more than 850 scholarships.

The tour featured an update on UMUC's academic innovations and a web conference with Senator Cardin in Largo and UMUC students at military installations in Germany, Turkey, and Bahrain, as well as Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. The students shared their UMUC experiences and stories about the challenges of juggling families and military service.

Master Sergeant Christopher Berger and Staff Sergeant Calvin Collosi joined Brian Hulse, recently separated from the military, and Cheri Kuzio, a military spouse, from Joint Base Andrews. Master Sergeant Charles Gardner and Michael Johnson, a civilian military employee, joined the web conference from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. Jennyeka Neil and Cameron Isaac, both with the Air Force in Adana, Turkey, and Jessica McCaskill, a culinary specialist serving in the U.S. Navy in Bahrain, also joined the discussion from their respective duty stations.

"[UMUC is] providing a quality education to our heroes and the families of our heroes. UMUC's flexible program allows students to work full time, take care of their families, and go to school without the huge financial burden of many other colleges," Cardin said. "This is exactly the type of program that we want for our military families."

Cardin also met students John Arneson and Ben Heise, two members of the vaunted UMUC Cyber Padawans, the university's cyber competition team, who recently captured their first-ever world championship by winning the 2014 Global CyberLympics in Barcelona, Spain.

Arneson shared with Cardin his journey from ticket-taker in a movie theater to a job in cyber security at Cisco Systems after enrolling at UMUC and participating in cyber competitions with the Padawans.

Maryland is fast becoming the epicenter of the cyber security industry with a growing concentration of government, commercial, and educational institutions located in the state. UMUC offered the first fully online degree program in cyber security beginning in 2010 and now boasts more than 7,000 students in cyber-related bachelor's and master's degree programs.

Another highlight of Cardin's tour of UMUC showcased the university's new alliance with the federal government's Office of Personnel Management. The first-of-its-kind agreement offers tuition discounts to all federal employees—as well as to their spouses and dependents—who do not qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Further, the alliance allows OPM to work with UMUC to infuse a public-sector perspective into courses designed to prepare students for federal employment and to address critical skills gaps in the federal workforce. Since its introduction in April 2014, there have been more than 20,000 visits to the new UMUC/OPM web page and 1,723 courses taken.

Said UMUC President Javier Miyares, "Senator Ben Cardin is a loyal friend to UMUC, to students across Maryland, and to all of higher education. We were proud to welcome him to our Academic Center at Largo, and it was a particular honor for our students on military bases in Germany, Turkey, and Bahrain, as well as at Joint Base Andrews here in Maryland, to share their stories with him via web conference. His keen interest in and understanding of the unique challenges facing adult learners have long positioned him as a champion for our students. Senator Cardin is an indispensable ally in our quest to continue to provide affordable, accessible, and valued higher education that strengthens our economy and broadens career horizons at home and abroad."

Cardin is in his second term in the U.S. Senate and currently serves on the Finance, Foreign Relations, Environment and Public Works, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees. He previously served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 2006. As a Maryland legislator, Cardin served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1967 to 1986.