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Tuition hikes likely at USM colleges

December 14, 2008|By By ALLYSON DICKMAN / Capital News Service

WASHINGTON -- University System of Maryland colleges are likely to face "modest" tuition increases next year because of the recession, according to Chancellor William Kirwan.

"In this fiscal time, yes, we may see some modest increase in tuition," Kirwan said last week.

Maryland has enjoyed a three-year tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students at public universities. Before the freeze, the University System of Maryland raised tuition by as much as 33 percent between 2002 and 2004, because of budget deficits and declining state funding.

Under the freeze, Maryland went from being the state with the sixth-highest in-state tuition nationally to the 16th and Gov. Martin O'Malley hopes to keep moving down the list, said Kirwan.

Maintaining a tuition freeze "is going to be a challenge," he said.

But, he said, "I don't think there's any prospect we will return to double-digit tuition increases ... If there is an increase in tuition, it will be what we all consider a modest level."

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O'Malley hasn't made a tuition freeze decision for next year, said spokesman Shaun Adamec.

"The cuts have been felt all around," he said. "The governor would like to continue (the tuition freeze), but it's too early to tell. The governor has been clear that nothing can be off the table."

Maryland will have an estimated $1 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year. On Oct. 15, O'Malley approved more than $345 million in budget cuts and more are expected.

The University System of Maryland likely will take action on tuition in January or early February, Kirwan said.

At the University of Maryland, College Park, in-state tuition is $6,566 and out-of-state tuition is $21,637. Both have $1,439 in additional fees, this academic year. At Towson University, in-state students pay $5,180 and out-of-state students pay $15,726 per year. Additional fees are $7,314.

Last week, St. Mary's College of Maryland announced a plan to increase tuition, fees and room and board for next year by 5 percent. The 2009 to 2010 in-state price tag will be $22,874, up from this year's $21,559.

The school of 2,000 students is a public college, not under the University System of Maryland, so it does not share the tuition freeze. The college has increased tuition by about 5 percent a year for three years, said Marc Apter, vice president of marketing for the college.

This year's increase was due to increasing costs of energy and food, and decreasing endowments, Apter said.

St. Mary's also plans to save $1.7 million through position attrition, reduction in vacation rollover for staff, deferring salary increases and initiating energy-saving mandates for facilities.

The Maryland Board of Regents meets Friday to discuss and pass a furlough plan in anticipation of further budget cuts, Kirwan said. The plan will give campuses flexibility, but one principle will be to tier furlough days by income. University of Maryland, College Park President Dan Mote announced in a campuswide e-mail last week that if O'Malley signs an executive order for state employees making more than $60,000 to take five furlough days, he and university employees will participate. Mote's salary for 2008 was $431,900. Other employees' furloughs will be based on income, Mote said.

Statewide furloughs are expected to save $34 million, according to the governor's plan.

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