ANNAPOLIS – A bill to limit University System of Maryland tuition increases to 5 percent over three years has been reintroduced in the Maryland General Assembly.
The bill increases the corporate income tax over the same period from 7 percent to 7.7 percent to keep tuition costs lower.
Last session, a similar bill passed both the House and the Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Robert Ehrlich.
The bill’s purpose is to provide stability and predictability as well as affordability for students saving for higher education, said the bill’s sponsor, Delegate Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County.
She also said the business community should be willing to contribute to the education of students because companies will reap the benefits of having highly skilled and educated employees.
“It is an investment well worth it,” Jones said.
But Ehrlich called the idea “irresponsible and haphazard” in a letter last year to House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, explaining his veto.
“It is irresponsible and haphazard to create an unfunded mandate that would siphon over $250 million from other state agencies over the next three years,” Ehrlich said. “Especially in difficult fiscal times, we need flexibility in order to handle all of the responsibilities of state government.”
The proposed bill comes after the University System of Maryland Board of Regents last week approved an average tuition increase of 5.8 percent for in-state undergraduate students, the lowest increase students experienced in three years.
Ehrlich cut $120 million from the University of Maryland System budget since he took office, and tuition rose an average of 30 percent over the previous two years.
Ehrlich made it possible to lessen the tuition increase after he raised the university budget by 4.8 percent or $43 million for the 2006 fiscal year.
The increase also contributed to the failure of a movement to override Ehrlich’s veto of last year’s bill.
At Morgan State, the tuition increases caused at least 700 to 800 students to drop out of school one year, said Delegate Clarence Davis, D-Baltimore, a professor at Morgan State University.
“There were students dropping out of there left and right,” Davis said. “The increased cost of tuition was out of their reach.”
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, said he has not read the new bill, but voted on the last tuition bill.
“It’s very laudable to increase funding for higher education,” he said. “The state is doing less and less and we expect students to do more and more to fund their education.”
Clifford Kendall, chairman of the system Board of Regents, said he has not read the bill, and he would not comment on the board’s opinion of the bill.
However, Kendall said he understands the reasoning behind it.
“I think it reflects the fact that people are concerned about the long-range funding for higher education.”
Jeremy Horine, student regent, said he strongly supports capping the tuition.
“I’m glad the governor gave additional funds, but it is a short-time fix to a problem that’s not going away with one lump sum.”