Tuition increase at college is likely

Rise would be the first at school in five years

January 28, 1999|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,SUN STAFF

The first tuition increase at Anne Arundel Community College in five years is looking inevitable.

"I think it is time for a tuition increase," County Executive Janet S. Owens said yesterday.

Owens and some County Council members say the college's board of trustees will probably have to raise tuition because the county cannot continue to pour money into the college and also fund a huge school board budget.

"I am trying to address the [kindergarten through grade 12] problem," Owens said. "It's not that I don't care about the community college. But it's a question of who needs the money most."

While tuition at other community colleges around the state has increased as much as 42 percent, large influxes of money from the state and county have kept tuition steady at Anne Arundel since 1994.

At $63 a credit hour, tuition at the Arnold school is the second-lowest in the state (after Wicomico-Worcester Community College) and $9 under the state average of $72 a credit hour.

The college was a pet project of former County Executive John G. Gary, who worked with the board of trustees to increase enrollment and build the college into a major player in economic development.

During Gary's four-year term, the college received $63.7 million in county funding.

In addition to holding down tuition, that money allowed trustees to expand the campus into Glen Burnie, modernize technology and establish partnerships with businesses around the county, providing high-technology training for their employees.

Gary said yesterday he thought it would be risky to raise the tuition. Community colleges with reasonable costs offer the only hope of higher education and better careers for many low-income students, he said.

"Generally speaking, if one can get through the first two years, earn an associate's degree, then they can get a better-paying job to help them pay for the remaining years" of college, Gary said.

In contrast to his partnership with the community college board, Gary fought with the school board over control and spending of money for kindergarten through high school.

None of the eight members of the college's board of trustees, all appointed by the governor, would talk about the budget that President Martha Smith has mailed to them.

Smith will present the budget to the public at a hearing at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Annapolis.

Smith's budget has been written without including a tuition increase, according to county politicians.

In addition to funding from Gary, the college has benefited from a state-funding formula that rewarded a fast-growing community college like Anne Arundel.

County Council members say the college's favored status is likely to change in the near future by the double impact of a tax cap that limits revenue increases and the political reality of an administration committed to improving education for the county's 74,000 schoolchildren.

County Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr. said it was as unrealistic for trustees to expect to go another year without a tuition increase as it was for school board members to expect to get funding for their entire $516 million budget request.

"It's going to be a balancing act," he said. "I would like to keep [tuition] the same. But I think a small increase is a possibility."

"We are just starting to realize how serious the [kindergarten through grade 12] problem is," said Council Vice Chairwoman Pamela G. Beidle. "If we are below the state level [in community college tuition], then I think we should be able to bring it up to at least that."

Owens talked about a college tuition increase yesterday shortly before appearing with the county delegation, school Superintendent Carol S. Parham and school board members at a news conference to announce that they were asking the state for an unprecedented $50 million for school renovation and construction over the next four years.

Pub Date: 1/28/99

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