ANNAPOLIS – Aaron Kraus has seen friends drop out of school, dining halls close and a drop in rank of his school all because of tuition increases and budget cuts.
Now the University of Maryland, College Park student body president supports a bill to permanently cap tuition increases at 4 percent in the University of Maryland System and assure higher education receives a funding increase of at least 5 percent per resident student.
“This is a no-brainer piece of legislation,” said Kraus at a news conference Tuesday to reintroduce the bill.
The bill would help refund the $120 million cut from the system since Gov. Robert Ehrlich took office and stabilize the average 30 percent increases in tuition the university system has seen in the previous three years.
It was introduced in the House and the Senate last session, but failed to pass in favor of another tuition cap bill.
The other bill, HB 1188, also has been reintroduced. It would cap tuition at 5 percent for the next three years and increase the corporate income tax over the same period from 7 percent to 7.7 percent. Last year, that bill passed the Senate and the House, but was vetoed by the governor.
Now, Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, and Delegate Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, co-sponsors of the 4 percent cap tuition bill, are hoping that their bill has a chance this session.
“It’s a more modest solution,” said Frosh, about the other tuition cap bill.
Their bill also avoids the issue that caused Ehrlich to veto the other bill last year — a corporate tax. The Frosh-Madaleno bill allows the governor to decide how to fund its $67 million cost.
The funding source could be a slots bill, closing a tax loophole or a Rainy Day Fund transfer, said Jim Rosapepe, a university system regent.
Rosapepe also said that the benefits of the bill are that it guarantees funding for the university system, it provides more state funds when more students enroll in the university, and it’s a permanent solution to recent double-digit tuition increases.
“Tuition is out of control,” Rosapepe said.
Still, Madaleno said he’s not sure if the governor will approve the bill, but he is optimistic that one of the tuition cap bills will pass the House.
Frosh said the other bill was good enough last year, but does not make provisions for the increase in student population each year.
“The student population is expanding,” Frosh said. “We’re still way behind.”
Kraus said HB 1188 was an excellent bill, but prefers their bill because it restore the system to full funding.
“It would put us totally back on the road to preeminence that the university system was on,” Kraus said.