Extra tuition increase proposed for UM system

Glendening budget seeks additional 1.5%

January 25, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

In-state tuition at Maryland's public colleges and universities could go up by as much as 5.5 percent in the fall to help cope with the state's fiscal stress -- breaking a 5-year-old pledge to limit increases in higher-education charges.

Joseph Vivona, a university system vice chancellor, told a Board of Regents committee yesterday that Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposed budget includes a 1.5 percent extra tuition increase for the 2002-2003 school year.

The increase would provide an additional $7.7 million in state revenue, he said, and would come on top of tuition increases approved in August for the 2002-2003 school year by the Board of Regents.

At most state campuses, including College Park, the August increases were 4 percent -- the maximum allowed under a limit the board imposed on itself five years ago in response to public complaints about rising college costs.

Chancellor Donald N. Langenberg said yesterday that the state may have no choice but to break the 4 percent ceiling because of lagging tax revenues.

"We've been holding tuition increases at or below 4 percent for a number of years, but in the current economic situation it simply may not be possible to hold it that low," Langenberg said, noting that other states are planning tuition increases of more than 5.5 percent.

An extra 1.5 percent tuition increase would bring in-state undergraduate tuition in the 2002-2003 school year to $4,575 at College Park; $4,618 at University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and $3,768 at Towson University.

The extra tuition increase, which would apply to out-of-state students as well, depends on General Assembly approval of the state budget. The increased charge also must be adopted by the Board of Regents, which will discuss it with college presidents in coming weeks.

C.D. Mote Jr., president of the University of Maryland, College Park, said that he hopes the additional 1.5 percent increase can be avoided. The state's budget picture could worsen in the near future, he said, and it may be better to hold off raising tuition further until that occurs.

"We're not necessarily at the end of this budgetary problem," Mote said. "To my thinking, raising tuition costs is a last resort."

Glendening's proposed budget would give the system's 13 institutions about $31 million more in operating funds than they received this year, an increase of 3.6 percent. Over the past two years, Maryland's higher education spending has increased a combined 24 percent -- the largest increase in the country over that period.

Glendening's proposed capital budget includes about $93 million for five major campus construction projects, including a new dental school at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and a new biosciences center in College Park.

The prospect of an additional tuition increase occurs two weeks after the Indiana-based Lumina Foundation released a report that gave Maryland poor marks for the affordability of its public colleges and universities. A separate report last year by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education gave the state a "D" for college affordability.

The governor proposes increased merit-based financial aid next year, but no expansions of need-based financial aid, higher education Secretary Karen Johnson told lawmakers in Annapolis last week.

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