UM budget of $1.4 billion proposes to hold the line on Md. residents' tuition

November 08, 1990|By Patricia Meisol

Despite severe new budget constraints, regents of the University of Maryland System spared its full-time resident undergraduates further tuition increases yesterday, but permitted higher tuition for other students.

The decision to hold the line on undergraduate tuition for state residents means that college presidents must find another $1.5 million to $2 million to cut from a fiscal 1992 budget that already had been trimmed by $39 million before its passage yesterday.

Under the $1.4 billion budget -- an increase of 2.3 percent over the fiscal 1991 plan -- tuition for graduate and professional students will increase by as much as 10 percent and tuition for out-of-state residents will rise as much as 15 percent.

The increase in tuition, which varies from campus to campus, is to take effect in the fall of 1992.

The regents had capped tuition increases at 4 percent in August, just before learning they would have to cut the current year's budget by 6 percent, about $39 million. Yesterday, the issue of whether to retain that cap in the face of a similar budget cut for fiscal 1992 was considered so sensitive that the regents decided to discuss it in private, without first voting in public to go into executive session, as required by state law.

Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg had sought another 2 percent tuition increase, in addition to the 4 percent increase approved in August, to help offset budget cuts.

But after regent Albert N. Whiting accused the board of abandoning a policy of low tuition that has characterized public education for years, the regents deadlocked 5-5 and decided to resolve the issue in executive session.

After the closed session, the regents voted unanimously against further tuition increases for undergraduate Maryland residents.

"It's very important that everybody gets the signal that we are not putting on the backs of students" the cost of improving the university system, regent Roger Blunt said.

Mr. Blunt, who chaired the meeting in the absence of regents chairman George V. McGowan, said the regents went into executive session because the matter was "sensitive."

He said the discussion was mainly about procedure -- in particular, about how to reconcile approving a $1.4 billion budget while rejecting some of the tuition increases on which it would depend. He said the regents voted to hold the private session after they got behind closed doors.

At their meeting yesterday, the regents also approved $75 million worth of requests to the governor to fund a special plan to TC improve education at College Park and for such routine items as equipment for buildings slated to open during 1992, among other items.

The budget was prepared under guidelines from the governor, who must recommend a final state budget to the Assembly in January.

Even if the budget were to stand -- this will depend on tax revenue and on legislators' assessment of needs elsewhere in the state -- students are likely to find fewer courses, more students in each class and less equipment.

Some presidents said they would consider program cuts and layoffs.

Towson State University, for instance, won't fill 20 of 30 faculty vacancies, said President Hoke L. Smith. He and other university presidents said they would handle such vacancies by offering fewer sections of classes.

Bowie President James Lyons said plans for growth would have to be re-examined. He said Bowie already is too dependent on adjunct faculty, its professors have increased their teaching load and class sizes are growing.

College Park President William E. Kirwan said his campus, which is trying to reduce enrollment to offer more individual attention, now must put those plans on hold and accept more students to help balance the budget. He said College Park would use tuition increases to offer more classes and pay for merit scholarships.

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