- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — A state lawmaker says the University System of Maryland should do more to bring its own spending under control before passing state funding cuts on to students in the form of tuition hikes.

“I think there needs to be some cost containment,” said Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, a Somerset Republican who has taken aim at salaries.

Mr. Stoltzfus says 87 percent of the system’s highest salaries go to faculty and administrators, and 10 percent of system employees earn more than $100,000 a year.

“If you are going to look at rising tuition, then you certainly have to look at the cost of personnel,” he said.

William W. Destler, a vice president for academic affairs and provost at University of Maryland College Park, did not dispute Mr. Stoltzfus’ findings but calls them “terribly misleading.”

“The University of Maryland faculty brings in more than two and half times its salary in research, contracts and grants, and a portion of those grants go to support the basic infrastructure services,” he said.

Mr. Destler also said the University of Maryland College Park has fewer administrative positions compared regionally and nationally with other schools.

“This particular university has had to endure $71 million in cuts in one year and only 42 percent were covered by a tuition increase,” he said. “The rest had to be covered by increased efficiencies.”

Mr. Stoltzfus has support from other state lawmakers, including Delegate Herbert H. McMillan, Anne Arundel Democrat.

“They need to charge more for out-of-state students,” he said.

Mr. McMillian also opposes tuition waivers for university system employees and says the number of administrators must be cut and professors should be teaching more classes.

“I don’t think that we should give tuition [waivers] to people who make more than $100,000 a year,” said Mr. McMillian, who suggests a sliding pay scale for those employees.

A series of cuts in state funding has stirred the debate on how to more efficiently run the 11 colleges within Maryland’s university system.

The state has cut aid to the system by about 15 percent since Mr. Ehrlich took office in January 2003 to help reduce a nearly $1 billion shortfall in the state budget left by former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat.

As a result, the university system has increased in-state tuition by about 21 percent. For example, the tuition at the University of Maryland College Park went from $5,784 in 2002-03 to $6,759 in 2003-04.

The university system budget is at $746 million, and Mr. Ehrlich has recommended the same for fiscal 2005.

The University of Virginia had its state aid cut by about 28 percent in the past three years and increased tuition by 29 percent. Undergraduate, in-state tuition went from $5,239 in the 2001-02 school year to $6,760 in the 2003-04 year.

Mr. Ehrlich recently was pressured by House Speaker Michael E. Busch and other Democratic leaders to cap tuition costs and increase corporate income taxes to offset the state cuts.

Mr. Busch, an Anne Arundel Democrat, said last week that the additional taxes will raise $27 million more a year, which will be placed in a trust for schools.

Mr. Busch said his bill has more than 30 supporters and mandates that Mr. Ehrlich increase money to the university system and the struggling Morgan State University by at least 5 percent from fiscal 2006 through 2008 and cap tuition increases at 5 percent.

Mr. Busch’s bill is similar to others across the country that cap tuition.

For example, public colleges in Michigan that keep their tuition increases in line with the inflation rate will have their state funding cut by no more than 2 percent.

“I think that people realize that tuition will go up, but we want to keep it in the range of inflation,” Mr. Busch said.

His plan also has a revenue source to defray future increases and asks university administrators to look into cutting cost.

Still, Mr. Busch says lawmakers should be realistic.

“I don’t think that you can continue to cut … and expect [colleges] to keep tuition rates low and still attract the best faculty,” he said.

Mr. Stoltzfus disagrees.

“I don’t buy it,” he said. “I don’t think educators are that motivated by salaries. I think a lot of them are answering a higher call, and they will come to the University of Maryland because it is a quality system.”

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