ANNAPOLIS – The University System of Maryland is considering scrapping and replacing its tuition formula, according to a draft report from a tuition task force presented at Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting.
“We found that the current methodology of calculating the cost of education is inaccurate,” said Gerald Heeger, task force chairman, in a later interview. “We would implement a state subsidy per student and per institution. . . . We need a new system.”
Now tuition is determined by calculating the operating costs of the institution minus state funds, said Chris Hart, university system spokesman.
Out-of-state students pay more tuition because they have to replace state dollars with their own, Heeger said.
“The cost of education is used to determine out-of-state tuition,” Heeger said during the meeting. “In fact, the cost of education was never really the cost of education. It was often a momentary decision which took things in and out of the cost of education.”
The belief about funding is that if state funds decline, the cost of tuition would, too. But the reality, said Heeger, who is also president of the University of Maryland University College, is that state funding is declining and tuition is going up.
“We’re struggling and tuition is becoming the substitute,” he said.
Regents raised tuition as much as 21 percent for this 2003-2004 school year over the previous fall’s advertised rates, after funding cuts of $120 million, according to published reports.
At the University of Maryland College Park, that increase took in-state tuition to $6,759, up from the $5,670 quoted the previous fall.
But the decision to visit the tuition policy was not just because of the increase, said Hart.
“There was no one factor,” he said. “We were realizing national trends in institutions; tuition has exceeded the consumer price index . . .We got into this knowing tuition was a bigger and bigger issue in Maryland. We understood how important it was to do this.”
The task force found that the current tuition and fee policy is built on a stable state support. For example, it specifies that the tuition charged in-state undergraduates should be within 30 to 45 percent of the “cost of education.”
“All across the country this is an issue. We owe it to our students and we owe it to our constituents of our institution,” said Heeger.
The task force was formed in October 2002 by University System of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan, who ordered an analysis of undergraduate tuition and fees as they relate to the cost of education. He called for the task force to make recommendations on the appropriate relationship between tuition and state support.
The system also sought a policy with maximum tuition-setting flexibility for institutions, one that furthers an understanding of the role state funds play in supporting goals of the system, and the ability to keep tuition increases predictable.
The report will be presented to the regents finance board Oct. 9, with a full-board vote scheduled in December.
“I think students and their families have an obligation to think seriously about the cost (of their education),” Hegger said, “as they look forward to their education and they plan their career, because there are choices here and there are obligations.”