Administrators blamed for increases in tuition

The Maryland Poll

January 11, 2004|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

More voters blame universities than state budget cuts for skyrocketing tuition at Maryland's public campuses - despite administrators' arguments that they have done all they can to hold down the cost of college, the Maryland Poll found.

The state's public universities passed some of the largest tuition increases in the country this school year - on average, a 20 percent increase, or $1,000 a year for many students.

College administrators and Democratic lawmakers argued that the increases were the fault of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who presided over a 14 percent cut in funding for the 11-campus University System of Maryland. If the system doesn't get more money this session, college officials say, it may have to increase tuition by 20 percent again next fall.

Ehrlich and other Republican lawmakers counter that the system bore responsibility for the increases, by failing to absorb more of the cuts through savings. The system, they say, needs to try harder to reduce spending and bureaucracy.

The poll showed more voters are inclined to blame the colleges. Forty percent of respondents said that "poor management by university administrators" caused the rise in costs, while only 29 percent faulted state cuts. The remainder faulted a combination of the factors or said they weren't sure.

Those more inclined to fault universities included Republicans, residents of greater Baltimore and rural areas, and voters without a college degree. Those more inclined to blame state cutbacks include those with advanced degrees, residents of greater Washington, and voters who said they'd back Martin O'Malley for governor in 2006.

The results may have implications for the coming session, when lawmakers will be debating a GOP proposal to cap tuition increases and force universities to keep spending in check.

System Chancellor William E. Kirwan said the outcome was not surprising.

"I think most people, when asked about the management of government agencies, naturally assume they could be more efficient," he said. "The truth is, the system has managed its way through a very difficult situation quite well."

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Tomorrow: Marylanders' on President Bush, terrorism and the 2006 election.

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