- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2006

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Tuition at Maryland universities would be effectively frozen for one year under a budget proposal approved yesterday by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

“We have seen tuition rise 43 percent over the last couple of years,” said Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, Montgomery Democrat and chairman of the subcommittee that developed the proposal.

There were no objections from committee members, and the proposed freeze was accepted as part of an overall plan to cut about $188 million from the budget Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. submitted to the legislature in January.

The full Senate is scheduled to debate the budget and the cuts proposed by the committee next week.

Democratic leaders in the Senate and House of Delegates, responding to appeals for help from college students, have been intent on freezing tuition for one year because of the sharp increases since 2002 that resulted from reductions in state aid for higher education. University officials have proposed tuition increases for next year averaging 4.5 percent.

Mr. Hogan said his subcommittee’s goal was to prevent a tuition increase next year for the University System of Maryland and Morgan State University, but only if it could be done without hurting academic programs.

The subcommittee found an answer in the university system’s fund that pays for health benefits for employees and retirees, which has about $19 million more than will be needed next year, Mr. Hogan said. That money can be used to offset revenues that will be lost by holding the line on tuition for the 2006-07 school year, he said.

The Senate also plans to pass a separate law mandating a one-year freeze in tuition.

“We’re going to do it both ways. We’re that intent in making sure we try to give students a break,” Mr. Hogan said.

William Kirwan, chancellor of the university system, said he could not commit to supporting the Budget and Taxation Committee’s decision until he has a chance to examine the plan.

“Our concern all along is completely in line with the students,” he said. “If the Senate can agree on a revenue-neutral source that freezes tuition, we, of course, would be supportive of that.”

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