For the second time in a month, state university students are facing the prospect of higher tuitions to make up for budget cuts in a sagging economy.
Tens of thousands of students face tuition increases averaging 16 percent in the fall of 1992 in a proposed budget Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg is sending to the university system's governing board Friday.
Four weeks ago, the University of Maryland regents imposed a 15 percent increase for next semester in a one-time-only surcharge. Before the spring-term surcharge was imposed, tuition for this year was raised an average of 4 percent.
If the budget stands, the average cost of attending a state university in Maryland will have jumped roughly 20 percent in two years. For out-of-state residents, the cost is up as much as 30 percent.
The new tuition increase would compensate for about 40 percent of a $62 million shortfall anticipated in the 11-campus University of Maryland System budget for the year beginning July 1. Some of the rest would be made up by laying off 473 employees, more than half of them at the state's flagship College Park campus.
Last week, with three-quarters of the fiscal year remaining, state officials ordered universities to give back $11 million, raising to $35 million the total cut out of the 1991-1992 budget so far. Other state agencies, too, are being directed to give back money to eliminate a deficit in the current fiscal year now estimated as high as $450 million.
The $1.5 billion university budget for 1992-1993 is being prepared with the latest available state tax revenue forecasts and is expected to go through numerous evolutions as it makes its way through the executive and legislative branches before next spring. State funds account for 36.7 percent of the budget, down from 44 percent in 1991.
Yesterday, there were signs that students are growing increasingly fed up with tuition increases even while they experience a decline in health services, library hours and attention from overextended professors. In interviews, some said they have been asked to take on too much of the burden that should be shared more generally with taxpayers. They said they wouldn't mind paying more if they were getting more, but they are, in fact, getting less. One student even suggested that new buildings and renovations be stopped entirely so campuses can offer enough classes, and students can graduate in the usual four years.
"I think students are frustrated. I think that is the perfect word," said Scott Palmer, chair of a student group representing all campuses and a College Park Student Government Association officer. "They feel they are being asked to handle an unfair amount of the burden," he said.
Mr. Palmer said his group met all day Sunday to consider how to make students' concerns over declining quality of education known to lawmakers and the public. He said students would come armed with personal "stories about how these cuts would affect Joe Student."
"We are willing to pay for higher tuition, but only if we feel like we are paying more and getting more," he said. "The state asserts that higher education is a priority to them. We don't see it."
At Towson State University yesterday, David Horne, an English and business major, expressed a concern common among many students over not knowing how exactly their money is spent and seeing shortages in academic areas while building and beautification projects continue.
"I feel cheated," he said. "There are too many students and not enough classes," he said. Although he said he was aware that these projects come from a different budget, mostly by floating bonds to the public, Mr. Horne said the work should be stopped and money spent on academics. "If academic departments are hurting, I think they need to take it away," he said.
Ann Mitchell, a junior mass communications major at Towson, agreed. "I don't really appreciate it, because I pay for part of my tuition," she said of the tuition increase.
Tuition increases vary campus to campus. The highest -- 17.6 percent -- would be at College Park, bring tuition and mandatory fees to $2,829. Non-residents would pay $1,258 more, for a total of $8,555.
"I think they need to find some money someplace else in the budget other than increase tuition," said Andrew Giacco, a Salisbury State University senior. "A lot of people are concerned because they are putting themselves through school. They may have to go to community colleges."