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BALTIMORE (AP) — The public is weighing in on the idea of merging the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Lawmakers linked $1 million in state funding to the submission of a study of the proposal by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents by Dec. 15. Friday’s hearing in Baltimore and a second hearing in College Park next week are part of the process.

College Park is the state’s flagship institution of public higher education with more than 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Baltimore has more than 6,000 students and is home to seven professional and graduate schools.

Supporters say a merger would make Maryland more competitive in attracting research grants and contracts. Opponents say it would diminish local autonomy and could hurt other system schools.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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