UM regents OK spring surcharge Students may pay about $150 more

August 29, 1991|By Patricia Meisol

The Sun incorrectly reported yesterday that tuition at the University of Maryland has risen by double digits year after year. In the past decade, tuition at the state's largest campuses increased by more than 10 percent four times.

The Sun regrets the error.

It was to be the year students got a break from years o double-digit tuition increases. But when University of Maryland regents saw the gaping hole in their budget caused by a dour economy, they approved a 15 percent tuition surcharge for the spring semester.

The surcharge is expected to raise half of the $24.1 million the governor says he needs back from the university system to balance the state budget next July.


With a previously approved 4 percent tuition increase spread throughout the year, students will be paying 11.5 percent more, said Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg. He said he hopes, but cannot promise, it will be a one-time increase.

Faced with even bleaker prospects for 1993 -- revenue projections warn of university cuts as high as $75 million, or three times as big as now -- the regents told the chancellor to come up with a long-term plan by Jan. 1 to redirect the system's resources, merging or eliminating campuses if necessary, to preserve quality.

It would be the second major reshaping of Maryland higher education in three years, and the regents' action yesterday is essentially a recognition that the goals of the 1988 law setting up the state university system cannot be realized without major surgery.

They also approved a set of principles prepared by the chancellor and presidents to guide future cuts. If these are put in place, the result would be a much-constricted university system, with fewer campuses, fewer academic programs and fewer research programs.

The remainder of the immediate budget cut will come from furloughs for faculty and staff on five campuses -- worth $1.3 million -- and pink slips for part-time staffers worth $7.2 million.

Previous budget crises already have required many campuses to cut deeply into travel and maintenance, and vacant faculty positions are piling up.

"We don't want to close classes," said regents Chairman George V. McGowan.

He said that furloughs are intended for days when students are not in class. Campuses or research units that will use one-day furloughs are the University of Maryland at College Park, Baltimore County and Eastern Shore, Coppin State College, and the Center for Environment and Estuarine Studies.

Tens of thousands of students on 11 campuses are affected by '' the tuition increase, which amounts to an average of $150 depending on the campus. Tuition at public campuses has risen nearly 40 percent during the past six years -- on top of room and board increases -- and regents had hoped to stem the tide by restricting this year's tuition rise to 4 percent.

Their change of heart drew immediate protests from student leaders.

"We students are paying more and getting less," said David Cameron, a Towson State University senior and acting chair of a group of students on all state campuses. "It's like buying a car and not getting the tires."

Other students said that campuses should cut out-of-date programs before charging students more. "This decision may be kind of hasty at least," said Rajiv Goel, 19, a College Park sophomore who has sat in on numerous meetings to discuss plans to cut or merge eight academic departments or schools.

Mr. Goel also faulted the Maryland General Assembly for "overlooking the importance of education" and not looking more to other state agencies before ordering cuts in education.

The cuts affect each of the system's 11 campuses differently.

For example, of the $24 million cut, the College Park campus is contributing $8.5 million. Most of this, $6.5 million, will come from the extra tuition charge. About $1.2 million will be saved by laying off part-timers who don't teach, and the rest will be saved by a one-day furlough -- or day off without pay -- for thousands of staff.

The campus will divert $700,000 of the new tuition revenue to financial aid for the neediest students, College Park President William E. Kirwan said.

"I can't tell you how distressed I am," he said of the tuition increases. Last year, when tuition for out-of-state students rose 15 percent, he said that he received many calls and letters from parents and in some instances, students dropped out of school or were forced to go part time.

Dr. Kirwan said that, as bothered as he is about the magnitude of the increase, the price to the student still compares favorably with tuition in other states.

Annual tuition at five colleges in nearby states averaged $3,200 compared with the new price of $2,600 at College Park, he said. Others schools in his sample are charging out-of-state students $8,200 compared with $7,800 at College Park.

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