By Amanda Burdette
ANNAPOLIS – Maryland’s public colleges and universities are proposing tuition increases that average 5.4 percent for the 1998-1999 school year, arguing that more funds are necessary to enhance undergraduate programs, computer resources and to keep faculty salaries competitive.
The schools made their cases last week before the Maryland Higher Education Commission, which reviews reports submitted annually before making recommendations to the General Assembly and governor.
The University of Maryland College Park, the flagship campus in the University of Maryland System, has asked for almost $6 million to fund its plans for the upcoming school year. The request includes $2 million for undergraduate education, including enhancements of honors and liberal arts requirements and professional programs such as architecture, education and journalism.
One source of financial pressure on campuses is what experts call “tenure density” — the trend toward older, well-compensated faculty.
Joe Vivona, vice chancellor of administration and finance from the University Maryland System, said at the commission meeting Wednesday that the system is offering early retirement to its tenured faculty in hopes of cost containment.
At Bowie State University, which is part of the UMS system, faculty salaries are a main priority, especially because compensation at the campus is below the national and state averages. In order to catch up with the state norm, Bowie State sought commission approval for $458,213.
Salisbury State University also wants to raise faculty salaries and give permanent jobs to those who are now on temporary contracts. Tuition and fees would fund the $400,000 project, officials said.
Job security also emerged as an issue at Morgan State University. Earl S. Richardson, president of the Baltimore school, told the commission that reducing his contractual staff from 27 percent to 20 percent of the faculty would improve graduation and retention rates by lowering the student/regular faculty ratio. The plan will cost $1.4 million.
Coppin State College in Baltimore proposed to upgrade faculty, staff and classroom computers at a cost of $125,000.
University of Maryland University College asked for $28,453 to further develop a “virtual university,” offering remote areas of Maryland access to a university education via the Internet and other technologies.
“People talk about the virtual university of the future. Well, it is here,” Donald N. Langenburg, chancellor of the University of Maryland System, told commission.
Maggie O’Brien, president of St. Mary’s College, said the school can’t expect students to bring their own computers. “We have to provide [the technology],” she said.
In the works, O’Brien told the commission, are a multi-media lab for foreign languages and additional purchases of hardware and software for academic and administrative use. The cost: $470,000.
Community colleges are also shopping for computers.
Kay G. Bienen, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, said an average tuition increase of 4 percent for in-county students would finance the “growing cost” of new technology. The association, representing 15 community colleges, is asking for a $102 million state grant to fund its priorities.
Towson University is requesting $874,900 for multiculturalism, arts and sciences undergraduate studies curriculum development.
Officials predict the University Maryland Board of Regents will approve the proposed tuition increases when it votes Oct. 3. Vivona, the system vice chancellor, acknowledged that the increases exceed inflation by an average $900. But, he said, tuition at the system’s schools is still moderate in comparison to other states and private institutions. -30-