- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2003

BALTIMORE — Tuition at the state’s public universities could rise an average of 18 percent over last fall’s rates, with the cost rising 21 percent at the University of Maryland at College Park and Salisbury University under a proposal approved yesterday.

The University System of Maryland Board of Regents’ Finance Committee voted unanimously to raise rates in response to a projected $206 million budget shortfall for the 13-institution system.

The 18 percent increase was less than the 20 percent average increase that the system was expecting. The rates were helped by a recent decision by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to seek a $40 million cut from the system’s budget rather than the $50 million he originally planned.

But regents said it is still difficult to raise rates, which could result in students at the flagship College Park campus paying $1,000 more next school year.

“We’re hurting a lot of middle-class people who are out there working hard,” said Vice Chairman Charles Larsen.

The Finance Committee recommendations are passed to the entire board, which will vote on the tuition rates in a special session July 11.

Maryland’s universities have struggled with deep cuts in state spending as enrollment is projected to grow dramatically during the next 10 years.

Schools plan to make up for the shortfall through job and spending cuts combined with the more revenue from tuition. Several hundred workers are likely to be laid off and faculty positions left unfilled because of the cuts.

The regents originally planned a 9 percent tuition increase for the fall but were forced in January to make a rare midyear increase of 5 percent. The $40 million in funds withheld from the system means an additional 4 percent in tuition, the regents said yesterday.

The increases would vary among the campuses.

While College Park and Salisbury would see the 21 percent increase, tuition at University of Maryland, University College would go up 5 percent. Coppin State’s tuition would rise 9 percent, while students at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County would pay an additional 20 percent.

Under the plan, an in-state, full-time student at College Park would see tuition increase from roughly $4,600 a year to $5,568 per year in the fall.

Salisbury University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach said the big increases are necessary to maintain the school services in the face of growing enrollment.

The school is “bursting at the seams. I need to have the faculty and staff to serve the students at Salisbury,” she said.

About 17 percent of the money raised from tuition, or $13 million, will be used for financial aid to help offset the higher rates, said Vice Chancellor Joseph Vivona.

A small number of workers from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees picketed outside the meeting at the University of Baltimore. They demanded that regents seek budget-cutting alternatives to layoffs.

Several student leaders also urged regents not to place much of the budget-cutting burden on students and their families.

“The amount of increase we are looking at now is exorbitant,” said Tyler Patton, chairman of the University System of Maryland Student Council.

But David Nevins, chairman of the Finance Committee, said that although the board raised rates reluctantly, the step was required to maintain the academic quality of Maryland’s universities.

“It is very much in the best interest of our students,” Mr. Nevins said. “They may or may not realize it today.”

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