- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2006

Flush with an extra $117 million in state aid, Maryland higher education officials voted this month to keep tuition increases low for undergraduates at state universities.

The decision to raise tuition by 4.5 percent reversed several years of dizzying increases in response to decreased state aid.

But while the University System of Maryland managed to moderate the additional amount undergraduates will pay next year, students in graduate programs still face relatively sizable tuition increases.

At the University of Maryland School of Law in Baltimore, tuition is slated to rise 8 percent for in-state students during the 2006-2007 academic year, and the same percentage increase is scheduled for the pharmacy school.

Even graduate programs at the Baltimore campus such as in social work will grow at a slightly greater rate than tuition for undergraduates.

And in dollar terms, the higher rates can have a greater effect on what graduate students pay than the increases for undergraduates because some graduate programs already are much more expensive.

At the University of Baltimore’s law school, the 11 percent increase from the current $15,978-per-year tuition means students will have to pay an extra $1,758 annually. That’s compared with in-state undergraduates at the University of Maryland at College Park, for example, who will pay an extra $295 when the $6,566 tuition is raised 4.5 percent next year.

Some graduate students say the difference is especially hard for them to bear, considering many take on large loans to finance a costly postgraduate education.

“I don’t think it is particularly fair,” says Clarence Lam, 25, student body president at the University of Maryland at Baltimore, which encompasses law, medical, nursing and other professional schools that are part of the state university system. “Why should we be punished for going into a field that requires more years of education?”

Higher-education officials note the larger graduate tuition increases are not universal — the medical school, for example, will have an increase of 3 percent.

David Nevins, chairman of the University System Board of Regents that approved the rates last week, says the higher graduate tuition rates are only modest increases.

The higher rates are needed because graduate schools, with smaller student-faculty ratios and often specialized equipment, are more expensive to run. Graduate students are also more likely to be able to handle the greater expenses, he says.

“These students are on the verge of entering their careers and earning incomes that we believe will be such that they will be able to afford the greater burden,” he says.

As state aid for the university system dropped in the past several years, the regents have raised in-state undergraduate tuition by more than 40 percent since 2002.

In 2003, for example, the regents approved a 16 percent, or $768, higher rate at the College Park campus.

But some graduate tuitions have gone up by even larger amounts. During the 2002-2003 academic year, the University of Maryland law school cost $12,124 for in-state students. Next year, it will be $18,371, an increase of more than 50 percent.

Joseph Vivona, vice chancellor for administration and finance of the university system, also notes that the higher tuition is in part a result of the high cost of graduate education.

For example, he says, the medical school spends roughly $50,000 per year to educate each student, of which the student pays less than half in tuition.

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