Board of Regents Raises Tuition by Average of 13 Percent for Fiscal Year 2004

Board of Regents Raises Tuition by Average of 13 Percent for Fiscal Year 2004

The University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents voted to raise tuition at the USM institutions by an average of 13 percent for Fiscal Year 2004 during a special public meeting today.

The increase, which comes in the wake of a series of budget cuts that has reduced the USM's state appropriation by more than $120 million since last fall, will generate additional revenues of about $75 million, of which $12.5 million will be allocated to financial aid for students.

The increases range from a high of 16 percent (for the University of Maryland, College Park and Salisbury University) to a low of 5.5 percent (for the University of Maryland University College). The rise is coupled to a mid-year emergency increase of 5 percent that all USM institutions except Coppin State College and the University of Maryland University College enacted this past January to offset earlier cuts to the state appropriation.

Following is a statement issued by USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan during the meeting:

"The actions the Board will be asked to take today are intended to address, as best we can, budget reductions to USM institutions that can only be described as disproportionate, harmful and short-sighted.

"They are disproportionate because they are much deeper than cuts assigned to other state agencies. This time last year, our state appropriation was $868 million. With the latest spending cut of $40 million, our state appropriation for this year stands at $746 million. That's a $122 million -- or 14 percent reduction -- in state support in one year. Funding for the USM is only 7.5 percent of the General Fund, yet we have taken almost 20 percent of General Fund cuts. Our cut is almost three times greater than the average state agency cut. In addition, the cut is disproportionate in relation to the way other states have treated higher education. Two days ago I read a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education that said the national average for reductions to higher education this year is 5 percent. As I just mentioned, our cut is 14 percent. Clearly, other states have found a way to buffer the economic downturn's impact on higher education. Maryland has chosen a different path. It has chosen to target higher education for reductions.

"I also said that these cuts are harmful and they are, on multiple levels. As a result of the accumulated cuts, we must eliminate close to 800 FTE positions across the System including over 400 layoffs. First and foremost, these actions are devastating on a personal level. The Board needs to know that our institutions have gone to great lengths to provide compassion and support for these valued colleagues who will be losing their positions. In particular, we have launched extensive outplacement and other counseling services.

"At the institutional level, these position eliminations erode the quality of our campuses. Class sizes will grow, courses will be cut and support services will diminish.

"The cuts are also harmful because students are being required to pay tuition at a level they could not possibly have planned for when they began their studies. Some may have to drop out of school. Many will have to take part time jobs or expand the number of hours they already work. This will significantly impact their time to degree and the quality of their learning experience. Here again our institutions have stepped forward to try and help as best they can. They have increased significantly their financial aid budgets to assist our neediest students through these difficult times.

"Finally, Mr. Chairman, I said these cuts are short-sighted. The engine of economic growth and the basis for a high quality of life in the 21st Century is high quality higher education. At present, Maryland is blessed to have a System of higher education that, after decades of effort and investment, is regarded as one of the nation's best. It should be seen as a precious treasure that insures a bright future for our state, not as a balancing account to solve or state's fiscal problems. We anticipate a 25 percent surge in the size of high school graduating classes over the next eight years. These students know that the key to success in the knowledge era is a college degree. The question our state leaders must answer is: How will it be possible for this rapidly expanding volume of young people to achieve their higher educational goals and lifetime dreams? Our state is on a collision course with two contradictory policies. On the one hand, we are -- appropriately-- priming the educational pipeline by making the necessary investments to encourage more and more K-12 students to prepare for college, while at the same time we are destroying the ability of our universities to expand capacity and maintain their present high level of quality. Something will have to give and the clock is ticking.

"I refuse to believe that our present path is one that the citizens of Maryland want us to travel. We must redouble our efforts to inform our elected officials and the general public of the dire consequences that will result if the debilitating cuts we have received are not reversed. I want the members of the Board to know that I intend to lead such an effort, beginning with my presentation to special sessions of the House Appropriations and the Senate Budget and Taxation Committees meetings this coming Tuesday. We will call upon our friends and colleagues within and without of the System to actively seek every possible opportunity to talk to editorial boards, go on television and radio talk shows, speak to civic associations and other groups, visit our elected officials, and write our alumni and friends. This will require and intensive effort. But nothing could be a better or more important use of our time.

"Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for allowing me this opportunity to convey my alarm over the long term damage that is being done to our System institutions and to our state's future through these debilitating cuts in our state support and to express my intention to seek support from all possible quarters to reverse these harmful decisions."


Chris Hart
Phone: 301/445-2739