ANNAPOLIS – Molly Quell has spent her college years resisting temptation.
She says she didn’t buy a car or sign up for credit cards so that she could graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park debt free.
But her money-saving efforts – and even her scholarship awards – have not been enough, she said.
Her tuition and fees for the university have increased significantly since her freshman year. And now Quell, a resident of Salisbury, has had to take out student loans this year to complete her degree, she said.
Quell, 21, was one of about 15 students from the College Park campus who traveled to Annapolis Tuesday to support a bill in the Maryland House of Delegates that would freeze tuition for the University System of Maryland and Morgan State University. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.
But the bills come with a significant requirement: The tuition will stay at its current level only if the state can find the money to offset the lost revenue the scheduled tuition increase would have generated.
For next year, the Board of Regents increased tuition by 4.5 percent for most of the system’s 11 universities and two research institutions.
This increase would generate an estimated $19 million for the system.
University System of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan said the system does not have a position on the bills because university officials still do not understand exactly what the bills say.
Tuition costs shot up almost 34 percent across the university system from 2002 to 2005, the Department of Legislative Services reports. At the University of Maryland, College Park, tuition for an in-state, full-time undergraduate was $4,572 for the fall of 2002. The cost for next year is $6,861.
Supporters of the freeze say the bills give students and teachers a much-needed break from tuition increases without compromising the quality of education.
Nicolas Aragon, chair of the University System of Maryland Student Council, said student leaders would not support a tuition freeze without the guarantee of additional money from the state.
Aragon said this funding is critical because as tuition has increased, state support has decreased. He said the state supplied 43 percent of the general funds for the system last year. In 1995, he noted, the state funded 58 percent. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich proposed budget calls for $117 million for higher education.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D – Southern Maryland, one of the sponsors of the Senate bill, said the statistics on tuition costs in Maryland are “grim.”
“We can do better … we can find the money” to supplement the lost tuition revenue, he said.
Miller – who bused tables to support himself through the University of Maryland – said students who work still can’t afford tuition in the system.
Andrew Hall, president of the Coppin State University Student Government, noted during a press conference for the Senate proposal in Annapolis Friday that some students may have families to support.
“Financial aid has not increased as much as tuition has increased,” he added.
The challenge for students, Hall said, should “be in the classroom.” The biggest challenge for most students is to graduate in four years, he noted.
Kip Edwards, director of governmental relations for the University of Maryland, College Park Student Government Association, said rising tuition costs have forced students to transfer to less expensive schools.
James Rosapepe, a university regent who said his views were his own and not those of the board, said Maryland now has the seventh highest public tuition in the nation.
“Tuition is out of control,” he said.
These high costs, Sen. Ulysses Currie, D – Prince George’s, the bill’s sponsor, said, have resulted in a “privatization” of the public school system.
Rosapepe said in the fall of 2004, there were 3,000 qualified Maryland high school graduates who didn’t attend a Maryland university because they either couldn’t afford it or space was not available. Rosapepe supports a tuition freeze, but said he believes that a funding law for public higher education in Maryland is the best long-term guarantee to education affordability.