COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland System officials want to lower tuition for students as early as this fall, but administrators fear the proposed reductions could hit a snag in the General Assembly.
The Board of Regents finance committee yesterday passed a contingency plan that would reduce a previously announced tuition surcharge from about 16 percent to 5 percent.
For example, Maryland residents at Towson State University who were expecting to pay an additional $240 next fall would pay only $90 extra if the plan is endorsed by lawmakers in Annapolis. Current tuition at Towson is $1,846 a semester. It would drop to $1,696 under the regents' plan. Other campuses would see similar reductions.
But the proposed reduction depends on whether the General Assembly approves money for the plan that Gov. William Donald Schaefer included in his 1993 budget. The proposal is expected to be approved by the full system board next month, and after that by the governor.
The tuition reduction proposal was sparked by an item in the governor's proposed budget that allocates $13.5 million to offset rising tuition costs.
"The Senate has left this area of the budget intact, but the House has removed it," Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg told the seven-member system finance committee. "We have two quite different actions by the two houses at this point," he said.
The House appropriations committee is meeting today to hear budget amendments as delegates debated Mr. Schaefer's $12.5 billion spending plan.
Del. James C. Rosapepe, D-Prince George's, said he and other delegates met with Governor Schaefer last week to seek a supplemental appropriation if the money is cut from the budget when the House and Senate reconcile their differences. He said a House Appropriations subcommittee cut the $13.5 million because secondary and elementary education are also facing budget cuts but don't have the option to ask for higher tuition.
John Stierhoff, chief counsel for State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said the Senate kept the $13.5 million in the proposed state budget, but added that legislators also anticipated that the tuition surcharge levied last year would remain in effect.
The school's governing board initiated the surcharge as a temporary measure to deal with cuts of more than $100 million in the university system's budget.
Page Boinest, a spokeswoman for Governor Schaefer, said the $13.5 million allocated was to be used specifically for tuition rollbacks.
Ms. Boinest also said that $18.7 million would have been needed to wipe out all tuition increases.