By andrew Katz
WASHINGTON – The University System of Maryland Board of Regents on Friday is primed to end the four-year moratorium on public university tuition increases with a modest hike proposed in January by Gov. Martin O’Malley.
The board meets at the University of Maryland University College in Adelphi to vote on the 3 percent increase, which would add between $106 and $197 to the bills of in-state undergraduates enrolled full-time at one of the system’s 13 institutions and two regional learning centers. It will also mark the end of months of cooperative work between the governor, legislators and education officials.
The 3 percent figure was built into the budget after conversations with the Regents and the university system, said O’Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec. All sides agreed “the moderate increase was appropriate following four straight years of no increase,” he said.
“When we started this, from the governor’s first budget in 2007, the objective was to make college more affordable,” Adamec said. The state’s ranking for in-state students at a public university has since dropped from sixth-most-expensive to 21st, the “middle of the pack,” he said.
Tuition schedules show in-state rates at the University of Maryland, College Park spiked 44.1 percent in four years under former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who announced earlier this month his campaign to retake the seat he lost to O’Malley in 2006.
The expected hike would boost resident tuition at College Park by $200 to $6,763, according to system documents. In-state undergraduates enrolled full-time at Bowie State University will pay an additional $129 to $4,415, and at Towson University, another $156 to $5,336.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County students will be billed $6,679 next year and undergraduates at Salisbury University will experience a $146 raise, $23 more than students at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.
“The tuition increase is very moderate,” said Ronnie Holden, vice president for administrative affairs at the Eastern Shore campus, plus it will be offset by an increase in financial aid.
Brian Sanderson, a sophomore chemistry student at Coppin State University, said he would be “highly upset” if tuition is raised, especially without an improvement in services.
In-state undergraduates enrolled full-time at Coppin, like Sanderson, 20, will pay $3,633 next year if Regents authorize the new rates. Their $106 increase is the lowest raise up for approval.
Sanderson was appreciative, though, that the increase was capped at 3 percent.
“If it’s going to provide a better learning environment and better learning conditions, then I think it’s definitely money well-spent,” he said.
Approval of higher rates does not mean an end to a campaign promise O’Malley capitalized on during his term, said Adamec.
The Higher Education Investment Fund was created in 2007 to stabilize tuition and make college more affordable for Maryland families, he said. The creation this year of a stabilization fund within HEIF will help “protect against the peaks and valleys in tuition that often come with bad economic times.”
Adamec added that two bills designed to expand the Fund’s reach and invest in workforce development are due to be signed in May.
Out-of-state tuition schedules are also expected to pass on Friday, with full-time undergraduate tuition ranging from no increase at Frostburg State University to 5 percent at Towson.
In one case, non-resident tuition will drop: Full time undergraduates at the University of Baltimore are slated to pay $3,832, or 20.3 percent, less than the current rate.
The university scaled its tuition back to $15,000 to become more competitively priced with other system institutions, said Miriam King, senior vice president for enrollment management and student affairs at Baltimore.
Regents are also expected to vote on a restructuring of Baltimore’s undergraduate offerings, notably the addition of a new public affairs college. Five degree proposals for Coppin, UMUC and UMES are also up for a vote, as is a formal adoption of 10-year enrollment projections for the system.
Should the board reject the proposed increase, members may, according to system documents, elect to alter the recommended rates, with any changes requiring an adjustment of correlating expenditures to maintain a balanced budget.