COLLEGE PARK – Financial aid is so important and complex that it should be studied separately from tuition policy, a panel of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents concluded in a report to the full board.
The recommendation comes on the heels of a resolution passed Wednesday by the Maryland Higher Education Committee Finance Committee calling for colleges and universities to direct more of their institutional aid to needy students and operate as efficiently as possible.
The Regents Finance Committee recommendation was contained in the tuition policy it approved Thursday designed to make funding more visible and explicit, allow colleges and universities to move toward a revenue management model, and create a basis for tuition predictability, said Gerald Heeger, chairman of the tuition task force that crafted the policy and University of Maryland University College president.
“We can’t address affordability and access,” Heeger said of the decisions made within the task force. “But we’re setting the stage for a new compact between the system and the state.”
Preliminary recommendations from the task force had addressed financial aid, but in the final document the group called for further study to help mitigate the double-digit tuition increases the state’s colleges and universities have been forced to impose recently.
The preliminary document recommended all MHEC-administered aid be dispensed solely on need, almost the same idea as the one MHEC endorsed.
When the financial aid task force idea was taken to Chancellor William Kirwan, he agreed it is the best way to proceed, Heeger said.
“We came to the conclusion that the financial aid issue has become so complex that it requires a special study all its own,” Heeger said.
The financial aid task force would not only review issues, but also look at the role it should play in maintaining and expanding access in times of rapid tuition levels.
Regent Richard Hug, who created controversy recently with a call for doubling tuition and larges increases in aid, said financial aid deserves serious scrutiny.
Hug has said he wants to triple financial aid over the next six years to help out middle-income students, including the families of teachers and firefighters who are frozen out because they make too much money.
“Predictability is important,” Hug said in the meeting. “We need financial aid. This will open the door to predictability, and we need a significant push on financial aid for the university system.”