Letter to the Editor - April 27

April 27, 2012

Legislators’ ineffectiveness will harm students

To the editor:

While I am encouraged that Maryland's legislative leaders have finally begun to talk about resolving their differences, I want to urge our elected officials to get on with it and finish the business of the 2012 General Assembly session, because failure to do so puts at risk much of the progress made and opportunities provided to this region by the presence of the University System in Western Maryland through Frostburg State University and through the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

As you may be aware, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned its 2012 session on April 9 without passing the tax legislation and the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA) required to fully fund the operating budget that both houses had agreed upon. Without that legislation, the so-called doomsday budget will go into effect on July 1, which could amount to a direct cut of an estimated $50 million to the general funds of the University System of Maryland, of which FSU and USMH are a part.

At FSU, we have become experts at doing more with less, even before the USM’s Effectiveness and Efficiency initiative, recently cited by President Obama as a national model. And USMH, despite annual attacks on its funding, continues to grow and serve more people, with five USM institutions, including FSU, offering a score of bachelor’s and master’s degrees that a few years ago were not available in Washington County.

If the doomsday budget is enacted, our in-state undergraduate students would likely face tuition increases of at least 12 or 13 percent, significantly higher than the 3 percent increase that had been included in the governor’s budget proposal. These cuts would also mean substantially lower levels of financial aid, decreased services to students and fewer class sections.

Be aware that the legislature’s failure to act will have a very real impact on students, 30 percent of whom come from Maryland’s four westernmost counties, and its faculty and staff who make this area their home.

I encourage you not to be complacent and just expect that Gov. Martin O’Malley and the legislative leadership will work out their differences and reconvene. Nor is there any assurance, if they do reconvene, that the budget that had previously been agreed to will be enacted. Please urge our elected officials to return to Annapolis in a spirit of cooperation and compromise and conclude the unfinished business of the 2012 legislative session.

Jonathan Gibralter, president
Frostburg State University

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