Gov. William Donald Schaefer has promised to veto any tuition or fee increase that state universities and colleges may propose to make up a $40 million cut in state aid.
The governor's warning was issued in a letter mailed yesterday to the University of Maryland Board of Regents and the chairmen of the trustees of Morgan State University and St. Mary's College.
Tuition increases were discussed at a meeting of the UM System Chancellor's Council on Oct. 17 in College Park, said Towson State University President Hoke Smith. The council is made up of all 11 UM presidents and senior administrators.
At that meeting, some council members advocated tuition increases that would begin when the second semester begins in January, Smith said. The increases would make up for budget cuts that have prompted hiring freezes and slowed spending on all college campuses. But the idea failed to gain acceptance by the entire council, Smith added.
Nevertheless, Schaefer decided to inform the administrators that the losses may not be made up by increasing tuition and fees. To do so, the governor maintains, would discourage students from attending state schools.
"Students and their families have already made financial arrangements for this school year," Schaefer wrote. "I do not want you to jeopardize any student's opportunity to continue their education."
The 11 UM schools were ordered in September to cut 6 percent from their budgets, while Morgan State in Baltimore was given a 3.5 percent mandatory reduction and St. Mary's College in St. Mary's County a 2.5 percent cut.
Most cuts were recommended as across the board trims and as part of a statewide cost containment program instituted after an estimated $322 million drop in state sales and tax revenues.
The cutbacks total $39 million for the UM schools and about $1 million for Morgan State and St. Mary's, which do not belong to the UM system, a source close to the Maryland Higher Education Commission said.
UM Chancellor Donald Langenberg confirmed yesterday that the prospect of raising tuition has been explored, although he added that such movement is not probable.
"We have no plans to do that -- at this time, I might say," Langenberg said. "The subject has come up, as it quite naturally would, but no decision has been made. We've been talking about all sources of revenue."
Schaefer's letter cited the momentum that the 1988 legislative reorganization of higher education has sparked and a 48.3 percent increase in funding to colleges and universities. The governor also pointed out that tuition has increased 34.4 percent during the same time.
At Towson State, Smith said the budget cuts have resulted in hiring freezes, a reduction in library book purchases and a halt in hiring of adjunct faculty.
A second wave of Schaefer-mandated cuts may be a possibility, Smith said Towson State could absorb no more than an additional 3 percent trim.