“Wait, why are all those schools listed here?” Guest Post Michael Schlitzer, UMBC Data Science Graduate Student

Michael Schlitzer, Graduate from UMBC’s M.P.S. Data Science program at USG

Now, I’ve already stated in this blog that, until I enrolled in classes at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG) two years ago, I did not know exactly what USG was.  But, after two years of taking remote classes at USG, and hosting the Graduation Celebration earlier in May, that was the FIRST question both my parents and my wife had when watching the introduction video for USG.  So, I explained the benefits of USG with passion, and it dawned on me that you might be investigating higher education opportunities in the DC area, or maybe the mighty Google algorithm has randomly served this blog up and here you are. You might be asking yourself the same question my family was asking me: “Just what exactly is the Universities at Shady Grove?”

First of all, it’s not a University in and of itself, it’s a non-residential campus that houses programs from 9 universities from the University of Maryland System. So, you get accepted into and enroll in one of the 9 universities, but you go to USG to take your classes. It’s sort of like a timeshare for schools.

But USG is not a “satellite campus” like many universities have (University of Virginia – Wise or University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, as examples); it is simply another location where students can take classes from their home institution.  If you take classes from Salisbury University at USG, your degree won’t say Salisbury University – Shady Grove, it just says Salisbury University.  You’re not a “sort-of” Seagull, you’re a fully-fledged Seagull (I hope you see what I did there, ornithologically speaking!).

Second, USG is much richer because of that diversity. To some extent, we are all prisoners of time and physical geography.  University of Baltimore (UB) has a great program in Forensic Science and Cyber Investigations, but if you live in Montgomery County and work in Northern Virginia, the fact that Baltimore is “only” 40 miles away from DC is cold comfort.  It can take hours to make that drive during rush hour, so that great UB program might as well be in Boston.  And forget about traveling between Salisbury University or Towson University and Montgomery County for a Tuesday night class!  USG solves that problem by providing in-person instruction from the best programs in the University of Maryland system close to where you live and work.

The third reason that USG is so valuable is because it is a physical campus.  Now, during COVID, we have all had to adjust and adapt to full-time distance learning, but there is something really useful about in-person instruction.  If you have the ability to receive instruction, ask your questions, and interact with your peers in-person, most people would pick that as an option.  It’s a great value for your investment.

The fourth reason that I think USG is such a great value is that it is not a residential campus.  Let’s face it, paying money to live, eat, and spend money someplace else for 8 months out of the year is an unthinkable luxury for many people.  For most families it involves taking on a pretty significant amount of debt, and that’s often out of reach. Other people have family commitments that prevent them from leaving home for such a long period of time, and some people may simply need the support mechanisms that their home environment provides in order to reach their full potential at their own pace.  I think we all know of people who “went away” to college, incurred a substantial amount of debt, and left that school without a degree.

Education is almost never wasted, but that model of spending a lot of money without a tangible return on the investment is not particularly cost effective, and it is really only sustainable for lenders, not borrowers.  For those reasons alone, USG may be the best value in higher education in the State of Maryland. The pathway from Montgomery College to any one of nine universities all across Maryland all without needing to leave Montgomery County, is a road that can give you all the riches that higher education brings without the risks to your family’s finances and, let’s face it, your own ego.

Now, none of that is to say that a university education comes easy – whether you are an undergraduate or a graduate student, the USG campus doesn’t offer a substandard education.  You are going to have to work hard, maybe harder than you have ever worked before, but for many of us, it’s easier to focus and work hard on school when those other things that would cloud our minds and distract us with worry can be managed.  

So, why, indeed, are all of these schools here?  It’s really because the State of Maryland had the foresight to put the best that they have to offer in one place at USG. 

USG is your education, served on a silver platter.

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