ANNAPOLIS – Maryland colleges and universities are being asked to direct more of their institutional aid to needy students in a resolution passed Wednesday by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.
The resolution also asked for the institutions to make every effort to moderate tuition increases by operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The directive is the first time the commission has taken such a stance in approving its budget, said Janice Doyle, assistant secretary for finance policy.
“We’re saying this is a priority. We’ve made these recommendations clear within our budget recommendations,” Doyle said.
MHEC oversees the state’s colleges, universities and private career schools and administers state financial aid.
The resolution comes after MHEC spotted a trend in its study of undergraduate student financial aid at Maryland’s public colleges and universities. The study found the institutions were devoting a majority of their aid to merit-based grants and scholarships, rather than need-based ones.
Although need-based programs received the majority of all student financial aid funding, MHEC found that 19 percent of institutional financial support in fiscal year 2002 went to merit-based grants and scholarships. Just 5 percent of institutional funds went to need-based aid. The resolution means that institutions now will get their financial aid through the commission’s aid programs for need-based students, Doyle said. The issue was a big concern of the commission especially with tuition increasing across the state, said Commission Vice Chairman Donald Slowinski. Maryland tuition has increased an average of almost 20 percent this year and could go higher next school year.
“(We’re) dealing with access and affordability,” Slowinski said. “This raises dialogue. We encourage them to move to the needs of the students.”
Commission members stand behind the resolution, too.
“I think this is a Band-Aid, a first-year step in quality and access . . . because of tuition increases,” said Hoke Smith, commission member. “We’re in a different time. This is a necessary step, but I don’t regard it as more than a first-aid step.” MHEC also approved an operating budget of $1.3 billion for higher education and a capital budget of $375.7 million for institutions for the 2004-2005 school year.
The budgets were approved with the state’s current fiscal restraints in mind, Doyle said.
“So we emphasized life and safety issues and academic issues as priorities,” Doyle said. “The emphasis is for academic facilities . . . We need the facilities to teach students.”