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College costs on rise

July 20, 2003|by JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

Brent Feight knew his oldest son's tuition was likely to go up for the fall at the University of Maryland at College Park, but he said he had no idea the Board of Regents would approve a 16 percent increase.

The same day the Maryland increase was announced, Penn State University's board of trustees approved tuition increases. The Pennsylvania increases also will hit the Feights' finances because a second son began taking freshman classes at Penn State this summer. Out-of-state freshmen at Penn State's University Park campus near State College, Pa., face a 9.8 percent tuition increase this fall.

"It will definitely make an impact on the family," said Feight, of Cearfoss.

"We'll be tightening up on budgets. Some of the frills built into the budget will be dried up," said Feight, whose family does not qualify for financial aid.

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The costs of going to college full- or part-time in the Tri-State area are going up this fall, especially at state institutions facing cutbacks because of state budget crises.

"We always try to keep increases small, but sometimes when faced with a funding situation it's almost impossible if we want to keep the quality of education we offer," Penn State spokesman Tysen Kendig said.

Penn State has had a drop of approximately $45 million in state funding during the last two years, Kendig said.

Thirty years ago, tuition covered a third of the costs for a student's education at Penn State, Kendig said. Now it covers 69 percent and state money covers about 31 percent, he said.

"The feedback actually has been very good as far as we can tell. Good in the sense that the students are understanding that the university is not haphazardly being wasteful," Kendig said.

"They're obviously unhappy about it, as you can imagine," he said.

Kendig said students understand university officials are raising rates to maintain the quality of the degree programs.

Penn State has the most complex tuition hierarchy going into the fall semester.

Besides the across-the-board increases, the system is starting to phase in a previously approved tier of tuition increases, Kendig said.

Last year, the university had two sets of tuition costs - one for underclassmen and one for upperclassmen.

This year there are three sets of prices because freshmen will pay an additional increase whether they live in or outside the state, Kendig said. University system officials did that to keep down tuition increases for students already in the system, he said.

Maryland increase


At University of Maryland at College Park, tuition is going up 16 percent, according to a University System of Maryland tuition chart.

Before an unusual tuition increase going into the last spring semester, the university had kept annual increases at no more than 4 percent, UMCP spokeswoman Cassandra Robinson said.

With the exceptions of the University of Maryland University College and Coppin State College, every school in the University System of Maryland raised tuition by 5 percent last spring, said university system spokesman Chris Hart.

"I believed it had happened only one other time in the history of the system," Hart said.

This fall's tuition increase will make up about 43 percent of the $80 million shortfall in UMCP's budget, Robinson said. The rest will be made up by reducing operating costs and student services, she said.

Students possibly could see library hours cut back and larger class sizes, she said.

"No one likes to see large tuition increases. Certainly, this will affect a large number of families as they try to meet these costs," Robinson said.

Students protested state budget cuts to the university system in Annapolis and protested tuition increases with the Board of Regents, Hart said.

One protest in Annapolis saw students park a hearse in Annapolis with a "body" in a coffin as students sent a message to state legislators that they were responsible for the death of higher education, Hart said.

Since the Board of Regents' July 11 vote to increase tuition, Hart said he hadn't gotten a lot of feedback from students and their families.

"We appreciate their concerns. We have the same concerns," Robinson said.

Slots connection


State Sen. Donald Munson said the university system's tuition increases are a consequence of Maryland House of Delegates members killing a bill to allow slot machines in Maryland.

"This is, in my view, what's driving up the cost of higher education," said Munson, R-Washington.

If the slots legislation had passed, it wouldn't have taken effect in time for the anticipated revenue to help this coming school year, but it may have reduced the necessity to raise tuition as much as university officials did, Munson said.

"The alternative at this point is raising income tax substantially or raising sales tax substantially, and I can't imagine that the people of Washington County are very enthusiastic about doing either," Munson said.

"The governor doesn't intend to do that and I don't," Munson said.

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