The proposed merger of UMBC and the University of Baltimore was not without controversy. In many Letters the Editor published by the Baltimore Sun, readers pointed out that combining two schools with different students and missions (UB served primarily working professionals and graduate students) made little sense, and expressed dissatisfaction at the way UMBC was portrayed in the paper. President Michael Hooker, on the other hand, was a proponent of the plan and believed that a merge would provide Baltimore with a high-profile research university and promote economic growth. In September 1989 the Board of Regents voted to postpone the matter, ordering further study and ruling out the possibility of a merger that would include the University of Maryland at Baltimore (UMAB) as well, a prospect that President Hooker had strongly supported.
In 1991, the Maryland Higher Education Commission recommended that the Board of Regents consider merging UMAB and UMBC in order to create one larger research university. In response, Chancellor Donald Langenberg created the UMAB/UMBC Task Force on Unification; in fall 1991 the task force announced its recommendation that the two schools combine into one institution called the University of Maryland Baltimore. The co-chairs of the task force, UMAB President Errol Reese and UMBC President Michael Hooker, explained that this would create a single, more prestigious university in Baltimore while saving money that could be reinvested back into the campus. The merger would also eliminate duplications and competition for federal resources. Perhaps most enticingly, unifying the schools would qualify the institution to become a Carnegie I research university, the highest national academic classification a university can achieve. The proposal was passed to the governor and State Legislature. Although it passed the House of Delegates by a wide margin, the unification plans were rejected in Spring 1992 by the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee and never came to a floor vote.