Independent colleges also feeling the budget crunch At St. Mary's and Morgan State, administrators trying to cut back.

September 12, 1991|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Evening Sun Staff

While the University of Maryland System grapples with $84 million in budget cuts, two independent state institutions are also facing tough times.

With orders to slash 4.5 percent from their 1992 budgets, Morgan State University may have to cap enrollment to offset its $1.3 million cut, while tiny St. Mary's College of Maryland will increase tuition by $200 to help make up a $425,000 cut.

These cuts are in addition to more than $1 million in cutbacks ordered at each campus last year. The latest round has forced changes at both institutions and prompted worries that further cost-containment measures will, in the words of St. Mary's President Edward T. Lewis, "savage" their universities.

At Morgan, in northeast Baltimore, a faculty shortage may force administrators to put a cap on enrollment. The university has already frozen equipment purchases and deferred maintenance projects.

At St. Mary's in southern Maryland, the Board of Trustees is expected to ratify a tuition increase of 8.7 percent at its Oct. 5 meeting. Tuition would be $2,500 a year. Mandatory fees already have increased by $150, to $710 a year, and 15 administrators and support employees have been laid off.

While St. Mary's and Morgan State successfully lobbied to remain independent of the UM umbrella when state lawmakers redesigned Maryland higher education in 1988, the fiscal crisis has forged a bond between the independent state schools and the 11-campus UM system.

The UM Board of Regents last month approved a 15 percent tuition surcharge for the spring semester and voted to raise tuition by at least 4 percent next fall. Presidents at five UM campuses have planned unpaid employee furloughs, and Chancellor Donald Langenberg has been ordered to study a "redeployment" of the system that could mean merging some UM campuses.

At St. Mary's and Morgan State, where enrollments and operating budgets are smaller than some UM institutions, the cutbacks have left administrators worried about retaining and recruiting faculty and wondering how to preserve academic programs.

State budget officials have warned of even deeper cuts this year.

"That would be disastrous," said St. Mary's Lewis. "I worry about it. If there is another cut, I don't' know how deep it will be, but I hope it is not equal to what we've suffered so far."

Lewis said he would have "grave reservations" about imposing another tuition increase if additional cuts in his $11.5 million budget were ordered.

The liberal arts college, with 1,500 students this fall, was just ranked 17th in the nation by Money Magazine in a list of "America's Best College Buys," a ranking Lewis pointed out to students in a three-page letter announcing the tuition boost.

The letter vows that the college will proceed "slowly" with its plan to achieve national academic excellence in liberal arts curriculum, which was dealt a blow by the recent defection to a Missouri college of a top St. Mary's history professor who was worried about the state fiscal crisis and its effect on the St. Mary's budget.

At Morgan State, President Earl S. Richardson said he is desperate to hire full-time faculty to accommodate a 6 percent increase in enrollment that brought the school's population to 4,733 this fall.

Morgan State laid off 60 faculty members in 1985 after its enrollment dipped, Richardson said. Since then, the institution has experienced a steady enrollment climb, but has not hired back full-time professors, instead opting to use part-time faculty. Morgan State's 1992 budget is $31 million.

"The classes are getting larger and that's not good for the students at Morgan State," Richardson said. "If we don't have additional personnel, we may have to go to [enrollment caps] and we will have moved a long way back in terms of access. You're cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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