By andrew Katz
ADELPHI – The public university system in Maryland will grow by 19 percent over the next decade to more than 176,000 students, according to enrollment projections adopted Friday by the Board of Regents.
Board members of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents approved the projections just moments after sanctioning a 3 percent hike on in-state tuition during a meeting at the University of Maryland University College. The board reviewed issues aimed at shaping enrollment, funding and tuition schedules for its 13 institutions and two regional learning centers.
USM Director of Policy Research and Analysis Ben Passmore said the predictions that the system will enroll another 27,806 students over current figures by 2019 are comparable with other systems nationwide.
“Our numbers are about as rosy an outlook as anyone in the country has at the moment,” he said. “There is a level of retrenchment going on — the need to cut enrollment is going on across the country.”
The projections show system-wide undergraduate enrollment is expected to grow by 16.6 percent to 123,280 students and graduate enrollment will increase by 23.8 to 53,202 students.
Passmore did note, though, that these figures include the largely online UMUC, which is poised to expand by 47 percent in the next decade. Excluding that school, projections show system-wide growth will fall
to 9.4 percent, undergraduate expansion will stand at 7.7 percent and graduate enrollment will increase by 13.9 percent.
Individually, the projections show most institutions will see increases: Frostburg State University and Salisbury University will experience moderate growth between 3 and 5 percent and Towson University will expand by about 20 percent, largely at the graduate level. It also predicted figures for the system’s flagship institution, the University of Maryland, College Park, would fall by about 6 percent.
Passmore said the decline was necessary since the university wants to intensify work in its engineering and science programs, and that it would be difficult to do at current levels.
It was also predicted that the University of Baltimore will expand by nearly 36 percent.
Board members approved Baltimore’s proposal for a new College of Public Affairs amid a massive reorganization of its undergraduate programs, as well as a request to drop its non-resident, full-time tuition rate 20.3 percent to a flat $15,000 in order to enroll a larger out-of-state student population.
Passmore said several factors were considered to ensure the numbers were realistic, including demographics, policy and the current economy.
“In a bad economy, we tend to stay high,” said Regent Francis Kelly. “People return to school for graduate work and the community college students seek to transfer.”
Maryland Higher Education Commission Director of Research Danette Howard said record enrollment figures in the state’s community colleges show the economy has had a lesser effect on their four-year counterparts. Howard added that the commission will release its own projections in June.
Researchers also studied historical demand, analyzed how the university system actively attempts to expand that pool and examined the state of the economy, he said.
“The fact is that when there is an economic downturn, people go back to school,” said Passmore. “It’s like clockwork.”
Increased interest in postsecondary education from high school students plays a role too, he said, citing the growing number of students taking AP courses. He added that the annual projections are adjusted to account for new academic programs and funding initiatives.
The board also got a few new members on Friday. O’Malley announced the appointments of Paul Vance, former superintendent of the District of Columbia and Montgomery County Public School systems; Louise Gonzales, former president of the Maryland State Bar Association; and Leslie Donald Hall, a junior at Bowie State who was appointed the Student Regent position.