WASHINGTON – Nearly 1,300 students will be turned away from Maryland universities this fall without more funding for higher education, the University System Board of Regents said Thursday.
The regents’ Finance Committee said faculty, staff and resources are “maxed out” and that the system will have to reject 1,287 full-time students — about 1 percent of the 130,000 students in the system — that it would have otherwise accepted.
“We have got to make the call to the state to provide the funding,” Chancellor Brit Kirwan said, adding that this is the first time he recalls having to turn away students systemwide.
The system’s budget request for fiscal 2005 included $5.8 million specifically to accommodate those 1,300 students, but Gov. Robert Ehrlich did not include the money in his budget proposal.
And an Ehrlich spokesman said the system should look at its own inefficiencies before turning to the state for more funding.
“Gov. Ehrlich is not turning away students. These are decisions that are being made entirely by the board,” said Henry Fawell, Ehrlich’s press secretary.
Some lawmakers agreed, saying budget cuts are not necessarily the problem and increased state funds are not the solution.
“They’ve been trying to say that their woes and their difficulties and the tuition increases are solely because of state cutbacks,” said Senate Minority Leader Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset. “I don’t buy that.”
The regents need to do more “cost-cutting things,” Stoltzfus said, such as increasing class sizes or cutting administrative pay.
Delegate Herbert McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, agreed, saying he is frustrated with the regents.
“It just seems like we cannot do anything to get the attention of these administrators to get them to change the way they are doing things,” he said.
But other lawmakers believe the state can do more: Delegate Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, has introduced legislation to cap tuition increases and create more revenues through a surcharge on corporate taxes.
Stoltzfus said the legislation would only create long-term problems.
“The corporate tax bill is overly aggressive already, and we’re already imposing enough taxes,” he said. “It’s already going to drive businesses out.”
Regent David Nevins, chairman of the Finance Committee, said he is only “cautiously optimistic” of receiving more state money.
The committee unanimously approved the enrollment projection Thursday, but noted that it will revise these preliminary numbers after the budget is passed. At that point, the regents will try to “figure out ways to get those 1,300 students” in, but there are no guarantees, said Joseph Vivona, vice chancellor for administration and finance.
“The regents’ intent is to meet full demand,” Vivona said.
The committee also looked at projected enrollment for the next 10 years. By 2013, enrollment demand is predicted to increase by 31 percent, to about 160,000 students systemwide, Vivona said. He said those numbers could change along with changes in tuition or school budgets.
The finance committee on Thursday accepted both the short-term and long-term enrollment projections, which will be presented to the full Board of Regents April 16 for consideration.
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