UM student leader criticizes regents' report on finances

Panel may penalize those taking extra credit-hours

`In the end, your logic is flawed'

October 23, 2004|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

SALISBURY - The student government president at the University of Maryland, College Park criticized a report yesterday that suggests the state's public universities impose financial penalties on scholars who take too many classes.

"It will stunt the intellectual and professional development of some of the state's most promising [students]," said Aaron Kraus, a senior at the University of Maryland. "In the end, your logic is flawed."

The 16-point report, which was released at the system Board of Regents meeting yesterday, recommends that most degree programs be limited to 120 credit hours, what a full-time student would take over a four-year period. If students take 132 credits or more, they would have to pay an additional fee. Some regents have said that Maryland residents may have to pay out-of-state rates on the extra credits.

Eight regents have been working on the report for nearly a year in an attempt to save money in the system, which has not had a state funding increase in two years. Each of the points must still be approved by the 17-member Board of Regents, something system officials hope will happen within two years.

System officials say the credit-hour limit would encourage students to graduate faster by planning their classes more carefully. Students in specialized programs such as engineering would not be subject to penalties, regents said.

Rachel McMullin, president of a University of Maryland, Baltimore County student group called SPIN@UMBC, said in a telephone interview yesterday that she was afraid that students would not pursue double majors because they would accumulate too many credit hours. "It's a totally unreasonable policy," she said.

But system officials said yesterday that exceptions can be made. "There is nothing that would discourage students from having double majors," said Chancellor William E. Kirwan.

Regent Joseph Tydings said that he believed university presidents should have the right to make exceptions to the credit-hour limit. "I think the individual exceptions shouldn't be subject to regent approval," he said. "We have better things to do than that."

But Regent Robert L. Pevenstein said regents should have the final say. "If we start to allow exceptions that don't come to this board, this thing will fall apart," he said.

The report also proposes that faculty increase their course load by 10 percent. At most schools, that means professors would teach about seven or eight courses a year, the study said.

Some faculty have expressed doubts about forcing professors to increase course loads, saying it could damage the quality of teaching and leave them little time to conduct research, which brings the system millions of dollars in grants every year.

The system should also purchase more goods collectively, reduce energy costs and steer new students toward campuses that have underused facilities or potential for growth, the report says. It also calls for reviewing the University of Baltimore and three other institutions to make sure they are using their resources effectively.

Similar cost-cutting measures are becoming more common, national experts said, because many public universities are struggling for funding and are reluctant to raise tuition. In Maryland, tuition has risen nearly 30 percent over the past several years.

"It's a common conversation that's driven by rising tuition and fees," said Paul Lingenfelter, executive director of the State Higher Education Executive Officer association, a nonprofit group in Denver.

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