Md. regents to propose smaller tuition hike Pressure from public, governor, alter policy to be put vote today

October 03, 1997|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

In the face of pressure from Gov. Parris N. Glendening, regents for the University System of Maryland have agreed to reduce substantially proposed increases in next year's tuition rates that sparked a public outcry.

But, under the policy to be voted on today, the state's roughly 60,000 full-time undergraduate students would still pay about 4 percent more next year, university and state officials said. A student at the University of Maryland, College Park, paying $3,750 in tuition this year would pay $3,930 next year.

The board of regents has not released details of the policy in advance of this morning's meetings in Frostburg. The proposed increase would be slightly different for each of the system's 11 undergraduate campuses and it does not apply to mandatory fees and other costs. Those could rise at significantly greater rates.

The regents originally proposed tuition increases of 6 percent to 7 percent, well above the rate of inflation and high enough to provoke the ire of the governor and other top state officials. In response, the regents delayed a vote and agreed to devise a smaller increase.

The lower tuition rate may affect the education offered at Maryland's public campuses, administrators said.

"If they begin to limit tuition and don't provide any more state money, they will deny access to students," said John Haeger, provost at Towson University, who estimated that his campus would receive $1 million less under the smaller tuition rate. "They won't be able to take them."

Taken together with mandatory fees, the higher August proposals would have pushed annual tuition at several Maryland public campuses above $4,500. Costs for room and board, books and travel add another $4,000 to $6,000 in the yearly tab.

"The governor was concerned that we would have been pushing ahead with a tuition plan to make it harder to afford," Ray Feldmann, a spokesman for the governor, said yesterday. "That 7 or 8 percent increase, in the governor's mind, did not fit in with trying to make the college education more affordable to working families."

Late last month, Glendening met with Donald N. Langenberg, the university system's chancellor; Lance W. Billingsley, the regents chairman; and Patricia S. Florestano, the state secretary of higher education, to find a compromise.

But the governor rebuffed the demand of university officials that the state promise to make up the lost funds. "Parris said, 'I'm aware of your needs,' " Florestano recalled yesterday. "But there's no quid quo pro on the table. He refused to do that."

Glendening, a scholarship student who became a political science professor at the University of Maryland, campaigned hard on the issue of higher education when he first ran for governor, and he even weighed calling for a tuition freeze within the past year. Glendening's budgets have slightly increased state spending on the university system even as spending has been cut or held constant for other state divisions.

At the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, hundreds of students signed a petition in the past week protesting the tuition proposals, while the issue has sparked heavy coverage in student newspapers across the state.

"This campus should be affordable to all Maryland residents without exception," the College Park-based Diamondback stated in a Sept. 22 editorial. "If tuition continues to increase as it has in recent years, there will be serious consequences for many students."

University system officials did not consider the political implications of their actions, Florestano suggested.

"I would rather spend money on higher education than anything else in this world," Florestano said. "You've just got to constantly find this balance."

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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