Regional higher education centers were established by law in 2000 to provide another option for high school graduates seeking further education (Chapter 542, Acts of 2005; Code Education Article, sec. 10-212). These centers provide access to affordable higher education in areas of the State which have few institutions of higher learning. They also provide courses and programs needed by business and industry in the area served. Since the 1990s, universities and community colleges have collaborated to form most of these centers.

The first regional higher education center was the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. It was initiated in 1994 with State funds to serve Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties (Chapter 282, Acts of 1994; Code Education Article, secs. 24-301 through 24-309).

At Aberdeen in Harford County, the Higher Education and Applied Technology Center (HEAT) started in 1995. In 2013, it was renamed the University Center of Northeastern Maryland.

In 1997, the Waldorf Center for Higher Education was founded in Charles County as a partnership between the College of Southern Maryland and the University of Maryland University College.

The Eastern Shore Higher Education Center opened in 2003 at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills, Queen Anne's County.

Opened in 2001, the Laurel College Center started as a partnership between Prince George's Community College and Howard Community College.

The University System of Maryland Hagerstown opened in January 2005.

The Frederick Center for Research & Education in Science & Technology (CREST) opened in Fall 2016.

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