Value may not mean low tuition Cost: In a magazine listing of the schools considered the "elite values in college education today," some more expensive private institutions lead the rankings.

The Education Beat

August 21, 1996|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

WHAT'S "VALUE" in higher education?

It's not necessarily low tuition. Indeed, September Money magazine, in its annual listing of the best values in American colleges and universities, places only one Maryland public college in the top 100. And St. Mary's College of Maryland, ranked 10th by Money, has the highest public college tuition in the state.

Moreover, the Johns Hopkins University is the first Maryland private school listed by Money as among "the elite values in college education today." Ranked 64th, Hopkins this year will charge freshmen $20,740 in tuition and fees, enough to choke a large horse.

What's going on here? Money, unlike most of the rest of the magazines that rank colleges in what has become a most lucrative exercise, has married quality, as measured by such things as freshman Scholastic Assessment Test scores, number of faculty with doctorates and library resources, with price, as measured by tuition.

When that is done, relatively more expensive colleges such as Hopkins, St. Mary's and the California Institute of Technology (which leads this year's Money list) emerge as schools that deliver for what students pay.

Absent from the Money rankings are the campuses of the University of Maryland System. One reason is that the magazine bases its ratings on out-of-state tuition, and Maryland traditionally has charged out-of-staters close to the full cost of education, now more than $10,000 per year at College Park. But that's still less than Virginia, North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Michigan, all schools that Maryland educators seek to emulate (and all listed by Money as among the best values for in-state students).

For Maryland residents, the University of Maryland Board of Regents on Friday will approve yet another round of tuition increases, effective next year, ranging from 3 percent at the Eastern Shore campus to 10 percent at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. On average, UM undergraduates will pay $3,256 in 1997-1998, a 4.8 percent increase.

These increases are more evidence of a dramatic shift in the funding of higher education from the taxpayer to the tuition payer. As state subsidies have declined, tuitions have increased since the early 1980s at nearly three times the rate of household income and at more than three times the rate of consumer inflation, according to a recent General Accounting Office report.

Yet Donald N. Langenberg, chancellor of the University System, sees moderation on the horizon. By forcing campuses to project dTC tuition four years in advance, and holding them as closely as possible to the projections, the university "is getting more competitive, not less competitive," Langenberg says.

The only other "industry" to consistently outrun inflation over many years is health care, Langenberg notes, "and I think we're learning from the shakeout in health care that we have got to control cost and price. I think we're beginning to do that."

Fascinating facts fill higher education booklet

The Maryland Higher Education Commission and its predecessor bodies have excelled at one function for which they've received little public credit: gathering information. Before each meeting, the commission staff prepares a booklet full of fascinating data. Here are some facts and trends from the August report:

The media pay little attention to the cost of community college education, in part because it is inexpensive compared with that of four-year colleges, public and private. But the average tuition (including mandatory fees) at the state's community colleges has increased quietly from $1,348 to $1,966 since 1992. That's 46 percent.

Just under a fifth (19 percent) of the 106,000 students in the University of Maryland System last year were from out-of-state.

Women dominate on the campuses of nearly every public college and university in the state. Coppin State College had an enrollment last year that was two-thirds female, while Baltimore City Community College's enrollment was three-quarters female. Curiously, one exception to the rule was the University of Maryland College Park, where men dominated, 52 percent to 48 percent.

College Park and UMBC have battled bitterly over which campus has the smartest freshmen as demonstrated by SAT scores. The combatants must have gone to their corners and collapsed simultaneously last fall: Both scored four aces on the SAT, 1,111 of a possible 1,600.

Mothers, don't let your babies grow up to be college professors (unless they want to patch together three or four part-time jobs). In a report to the higher education commission, Catonsville Community College said it has not hired a full-time faculty member since 1981!

Pub Date: 8/21/96

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