Established by law in 2005, regional higher education centers provide another option for high school graduates seeking further education (Chapter 542, Acts of 2005; Code Education Article, sec. 10-212). These centers offer access to affordable higher education in areas of the State with 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 established in 1994 as the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. In March 2019, the Center reformed as the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland.

The Universities at La Plata was founded in 1997 as the Waldorf Center for Higher Education in Charles County as a partnership between the College of Southern Maryland and the University of Maryland University College (now University of Maryland Global Campus). In July 2020, the Waldorf Center for Higher Education moved to the campus of the College of Southern Maryland and was renamed the Universities at La Plata.

The Universities at Shady Grove opened in Rockville (Montgomery County) in 2000.

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

The Anne Arundel Community College at Arundel Mills and the Eastern Shore Higher Education Center at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills (Queen Anne's County) both opened in 2003.

In January 2005, the University System of Maryland Hagerstown began operations.

Towson University in Northeastern Maryland opened in 2014.

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