ANNAPOLIS – Tuition at Maryland’s public universities may rise by an average of 10 percent next school year, after the hikes won approval Thursday from the finance committee of University System of Maryland Board of Regents.
Regents are trying to make tuition accessible and affordable for citizens of Maryland, said David Nevins, regent finance chair.
“The goal is to figure out a way to fund our institutions at a level that provides considerable excellence and quality and still allow Maryland families to afford to send their kids to public institutions of higher education in Maryland,” Nevins said later. “I hope we’ve moved towards achieving that today.”
The tuition increase would range from 2 percent at the University of Maryland University College to 11 percent at the University of Maryland, College Park.
The final vote on the recommendations will be Oct. 17.
Although the recommendation was passed, there was some opposition among the regents.
Student Regent Philip Shockley voted against the recommendation, saying it’s a dangerous precedent to approve another double-digit tuition hike on top of last year’s 20 percent increase. Many students are hurt by tuition increases because they are paying for college themselves, he said.
“Students are seriously concerned,” said Shockley, who attends the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “I think people still think that parents pay for tuition . . . but there are a lot that don’t. The middle ground’s not there.”
Regents raised tuition as much as 21 percent for the 2003-2004 school year over the previous fall’s advertised rates, after funding cuts of $120 million, according to published reports.
At the system’s flagship College Park campus, that increase took in-state tuition to $6,759, up from the $5,670 quoted the previous fall.
Regent Richard Hug defended his tuition ideas at the meeting. The Washington Post reported Oct. 4, that Hug wanted to double tuition at public colleges and universities.
Hug said his idea is to triple financial aid over the next six years to help out middle-income students, including teachers and firefighters who are frozen out because they make too much money.
“With the state’s constrained financial resources, I think it’s highly improbable that we’ll get additional state support for financial aid,” Hug said. “If we can it’s wonderful. But if we can’t, then we have to look at other sources, and one of the sources is tuition.”
Doubling tuition would accomplish his goal, Hug said, raising the average tuition $4,400 across the system to about $9,000.
“It’s an idea and I want to open a debate, because it’s one of the most important, challenging things facing the university. Not only here in Maryland but across the nation,” Hug said. “We, as regents, have a responsibility to debate it, examine it, discuss it and come up with an action plan.”
But some regents didn’t support Hug’s plan.
“Doubling (tuition) is the wrong way to go,” Regent Jim Rosapepe said. “This will make it harder for the average student to go to school.”
Rosapepe proposed that the board advise the governor and the Maryland General Assembly what to do about raising tuition in the state.
“The governor and the Legislature simply have to make an investment in the future of our state, an investment in higher education,” Rosapepe said in a later interview. “That’s what we have to do, it’s totally affordable. The idea that we can’t afford it is ridiculous.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, representing students and staff at the meeting, said the board has made some bad choices in responding to increases.
“There are alternatives,” said Joe Lawrence, AFSCME spokesman. “We need to find money to help tuition . . . and people’s jobs.”
The finance committee also approved setting the system budget at $3.2 billion for the 2005 fiscal year and asking for $60 million from the governor.