15% surcharge on spring tuition stuns UM students Furloughs, tuition increase, other reductions are approved by board.

August 29, 1991|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

University of Maryland junior Anne Doyle found out yesterday about the 15 percent surcharge she will have to pay with her tuition bill in January.

"Does that mean it has to be paid in advance?" asked Doyle, a 20-year-old English major from Hagerstown. "I don't feel good about this at all. I'm here to get an education and my department is getting cut extremely."

Doyle and other UM students returning to campus for the fall semester were surprised to learn of a vote yesterday by the Board of Regents to impose the one-time surcharge on the spring semester's tuition.

The regents' action occurred at a meeting where the board approved furloughs for UM employees, a tuition increase of at least 4 percent for next fall and a sweeping resolution that directs UM Chancellor Donald Langenberg to develop a plan to downsize the 11-campus system.

All the actions are in response to the state's fiscal crisis, which has left the system strapped for cash and looking at a gloomy future.

"We have come to the end of our rope, and it is unfortunately necessary to force part of the burden of the cost-containment process on our students, Langenberg said.

The tuition surcharge, averaging $150 per student, will help make up for a $24.1 million UM budget cut ordered this month by the state. The UM reduction was part of an effort to cut $300 million from the 1992 state budget, which is threatened by a drop in tax revenue.

Employees of at least five UM institutions will be furloughed without pay for one or two days this year in another effort to compensate for the cuts in state funding, Langenberg said.

The surcharge represents the first time the regents have asked students to make up for state cuts, which so far have taken $84 million from the university's 1991 and 1992 budget.

The regents also approved a plan to raise tuition by at least four percent in the fall of 1992. Langenberg said the increase could be higher if the university faces more state budget cuts.

UM undergraduates already will be paying 4 percent more this fall for classes because of a tuition boost approved by the regents last year, before the budget cuts started.

In response gloomy financial outlook, the regents approved Langenberg's "strategic redeployment" plan with long- and short-term goals for the system.

The new plan changes the course set by the regents two years ago, when finances were better and the legislature authorized major funding increases to enhance the university's status.

It calls for systemwide consolidation, including "fewer, more efficient institutions," a reference to mergers of campuses and academic programs, said UM spokeswoman Anne Moultrie.

In addition, the plan calls for a possible reduction of student athletic fees to help offset tuition increases, early retirement programs for UM employees and elimination of academic program duplication.

Merging UM institutions has been discussed since the system was formed in 1988. However, the regents tabled a proposal to consolidate Baltimore area schools in 1989.

That plan was revived yesterday when the regents formed a special committee to study a merger of the UM at Baltimore and UM Baltimore County. A preliminary report on that merger from another task force is expected in November.

Another merger proposed by state Higher Education Secretary Shaila Aery would combine Morgan State University and Coppin State College. The regents voted to let the Maryland Higher Education Commission study that issue, since Morgan State is not a part of the UM system.

Student reaction to the tuition increases and surcharge was negative. The regents heard Towson State University senior David Cameron complain that the surcharge "is worrisome" to students.

"The students are paying more and receiving less," said Cameron, vice chair of the system's Student Council. "I see that like buying a car and not getting tires in the deal."

But Regents Vice Chairman Roger Blunt defended the board's action, saying that, "we can't do it with mirrors" and that students must be asked to help offset the cuts.

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