By Amanda Burdett
Students at Salisbury University receive credit for working at the registrar’s office, food service and other campus departments, giving the university labor production at no cost. And reducing heating and ventilation when buildings are closed saves the campus $300,000.
Eighty-one to 82 percent of costs are staff related, says William Merwin, Salisbury State’s president. The key to cutting costs, he said, is to “find a way to provide the same service with less people.”
The University System of Maryland, under pressure from lawmakers concerned about tuition increases that have soared above the inflation rate, is seeking to keep costs down.
“The cost of the consumer should be in line with the cost of living,” Sen. Robert Neall, R-Anne Arundel, said after a recent meeting with USM officials in Annapolis.
The Health, Education and Human Resources Subcommittee of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, of which Neall is a member, met early in the month with university presidents to hear their cost containment plans.
Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, R-Montgomery, said the panel met to determine if the universities are “using money they are receiving now efficiently as possible. It wouldn’t be responsible to hand it out without seeing if they are using it properly.”
He might have spoken for many when he said, “When tuition rises above the rate of inflation, education is unaccessible and unaffordable for a lot of people.”
Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Gloria Lawlah, D-Prince George’s, called tuition a subject close to her heart, since she has had children in college.
“Students are going deeper and deeper in debt,” she observed. When the USM regents were talking about raising tuition by an average 7 percent — a plan later abandoned — “I hit the ceiling,” Lawlah said.
Joseph Vivona, vice chancellor for administration and finance at USM, said in an interview that tuition growth for the system currently runs “a point to a point and a half above inflation.”
In October, the Board of Regents enacted a plan where tuition would rise no higher than four percent each year for four years. But the system is counting on the state to make up the funding difference, Regent Chairman Lance W. Billingsley said at the time.
State funding has declined from 45 percent of revenue sources in 1990 to the 30 percent budgeted for the 1998 fiscal year, according to a chart USM gave to subcommittee members. The chart also showed that tuition and fees have increased from 20 percent of revenue in 1990 to 24 percent in 1998.
Because of these figures, “cost containment has been all- consuming,” said William Kirwan, president of the University of Maryland, College Park.
Hogan said at the subcommittee meeting that he expects the governor’s budget “to increase funding by three to four percent.”
USM Chancellor Donald Langenberg said he expects a funding increase from the governor, but did not want to speculate on how much.
Vivona was less circumspect, saying he expects a $21 million funding increase in the 1999 fiscal year — 3.3 percent more than the $629 million the state currently gives to the system.
Ray Feldmann, deputy press secretary for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, said it is too early to give “firm numbers,” but emphasized that higher education is “a top priority of the administration. We’ll do everything we can to fund it.” Below are additional examples of how USM campuses are cutting costs: UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND BALTIMORE COUNTY * Combined academic and administrative computing offices for greater efficiency. * Reallocated $100,000 from computer administration to instructional services to help students majoring in computer science. * Combined counseling and advisement functions, reducing administrative and staff costs. * Cut 25 positions since 1991. UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND EASTERN SHORE * Collaborated with University of Maryland, College Park in engineering through distance learning. * Combined academic and administrative computing offices. SALISBURY STATE UNIVERSITY * Installed telephone registration system, reducing staff and improving student convenience. UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND, COLLEGE PARK * Established a private sector partnership to renovate graduate apartments with $100 million in non-university funds. * Set up telephone registration, saving approximately $30,000. MORGAN STATE UNIVERSITY * Installed an energy management system that monitors temperatures in buildings at a central location, decreasing fuel consumption by 39 percent per square foot for annual savings of $375,000. * Eliminated 25 percent of programs, including French, Spanish and modern languages, because of low student demand. -30-