State will increase aid to 2-year colleges Subsidy will be pegged to funding for UM System

April 03, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

The General Assembly passed legislation yesterday that would significantly increase state aid for Maryland's community colleges by pegging their subsidy to the level of state funding for the University of Maryland System.

State Sen. John A. Cade, a Republican from Anne Arundel County, and Del. Henry B. Heller, a Montgomery County Democrat, sponsored the bill, they said, to make up for years of sluggish increases in state allocations for community colleges. As a consequence, they said, tuition has risen sharply.

Maryland Higher Education Secretary Patricia S. Florestano successfully lobbied an initially skeptical Gov. Parris N. Glendening to accept the new spending on the community colleges, which stands at roughly $82 million annually. Starting in fiscal year 1997, the General Assembly will pay $8 million more a year to the community colleges for each of five years.

Education officials called the measure the most important legislation for the state's public two-year colleges since the 1988 act reorganizing the state's higher education system. "It's wonderful," said Kay Bienen, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges.

The 17 Maryland community colleges affected are considered branches of the governments of their home counties, and also receive funds from county governments. Only Baltimore City Community College, which is entirely run by the state, is not touched by the bill.

In academic year 1995, tuition at Maryland's two-year public colleges averaged about $1,800 a year. Tuition and fees have risen far more quickly than other sources of revenue for the schools. From 1980 to 1993, state aid to community colleges increased 82 percent, while local aid to community colleges increased 158 percent. Tuition rose 255 percent in that time, Ms. Bienen said.

Until now, state payments to community colleges were based on enrollment figures. As enrollments dipped, the schools received less money, though most of their payroll and physical plant costs remained constant or rose.

Community colleges now receive, for each equivalent of a full-time student, about 19 percent of what the UM campuses receive per student. By 2002, the colleges' share will reach 25 percent of what UM gets for each equivalent of a full-time student.

Pub Date: 4/03/96

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