UM regents approve 4% tuition increase

But state budget woes may force rates higher

August 24, 2002|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents approved a 4 percent increase yesterday for in-state undergraduate tuition for the 2003-2004 school year at most of the state's public colleges.

But the regents expect that they will have to consider a supplemental increase in 2003-2004 tuition rates this winter, if the university system receives less funding than hoped for from the financially strapped state government.

David Nevins, the chairman of the board's finance committee, told his fellow regents that "these may or may not represent final numbers, though we hope to hold the line at 4 percent," said Chris Hart, a system spokesman who attended the regents' meeting at Salisbury University.

Starting in 1997, the regents limited in-state tuition increases at the system's 11 campuses to 4 percent per year in response to public concerns about rising college costs.

The self-imposed limit was made possible in part by large annual increases in state support for the system - between 1999 and 2001, the system received combined annual increases in state funding of about 35 percent, the highest in the country.

This spring, however, regents approved a supplemental 1.5 percent increase for most campuses to help offset a leveling-off in state funding. With the state facing a budget crunch, system officials anticipate they may have to raise tuition by at least 5.5 percent again for the 2003-2004 school year.

If the increase stays at the level approved yesterday, in-state tuition at the University of Maryland, College Park for the 2003-2004 school year would be $4,756; at Towson University, $3,956; at Coppin State College, $2,963; and at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, $4,798. Those rates do not include mandatory fees, which exceed $1,000 at some branches.

Last month, the directors of the state's college savings program said that this year's two-stage tuition increase had muddled the program's projections and resulted in the loss of several million dollars from the program's reserve fund. Yesterday, regent William Wood urged that system officials communicate more with the savings programs director to make sure that a supplemental increase next year doesn't cause a repeat of the problem, Hart said.

Also yesterday, the regents approved an initial state funding request of $906 million, an increase of $38 million, or 4.4 percent, over this year's allocation.

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