Senate bill would restore higher-education cuts

Frosh measure gathers 29 co-signers, a majority

January 21, 2004|By Kimberly A.C. Wilson | Kimberly A.C. Wilson,SUN STAFF

In an effort to halt additional tuition increases at state universities, a majority of senators signed on to a bill yesterday that would restore most of the funding cuts that led to double-digit tuition increases last fall.

"Cutting higher-education spending is a false economy," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, the Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill.

Frosh's bill - which has the support of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller - would require Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to restore about $80 million of the $120 million cut from public higher education last year and increase the college budgets 5 percent a year from 2006 through 2014. It would also limit tuition increases to 4 percent per year for undergraduates at state-funded universities.

"The bill represents a promise to the entire system," said Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr., who, like several of the 29 co-signers, attended the University of Maryland law school.

The bill represents the first major legislative response since students rebelled against paying as much as $1,000 more for in-state tuition, a 20 percent jump. The regents have voted to raise tuition another 10 percent for the 2004-2005 academic year.

The "stability and predictability" provided by a limit would appease parents and students alike, said Bobbie O'Connell, Towson University student government president.

Del. Warren E. Miller, a Howard County Republican, agrees. But his approach, in House Bill 66, would limit tuition increases without increasing the budget of the system. "The other bill is the carrot-and-the stick approach. `Cap the tuition, and here, take this budget increase every year.' Our bill is just a stick," he said.

University System of Maryland officials said yesterday that Chancellor William E. Kirwan and other top administrators agreed to forgo merit increases under a proposed system budget for the 2005 fiscal year.

Faculty and staff at the system's 13 institutions are eligible for merit-based increases of up to 2.5 percent each year, said Anne Moultrie, a spokeswoman.

About 70 administrators at the campuses and in the central office would give up the raises because of the drop in funding to higher education, she said.

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