USM Institutions Remain Among the Most Affordable Universities in Nation

For Maryland Residents, Undergraduate Tuition Prices and Student Debt Levels Remain Below National Average

Baltimore, Md. (Nov. 4, 2021) – The recent release of the College Board’s Trends in College Pricing report confirms that Maryland families continue to benefit from affordable college options from institutions in the University System of Maryland (USM).  Tuition prices and student-debt levels for USM institutions remain below national averages—in some cases far below—and increasing graduation rates mean students are spending less time in school paying tuition.

Published Tuition and Fees are Below National Average

Institutions in the USM remain among the most affordable when it comes to published tuition prices—particularly for state residents. The 2021 edition Trends in College Pricing showed public in-state tuition and fees in Maryland below the national average for the 2021-22 academic year--$10,245 versus $10,740. 

In addition, the same College Board data ranked Maryland essentially in the middle – 24th most expensive – among the 50 states for public in-state tuition and fees.

The state of Maryland’s public in-state tuition and fees are substantially more affordable than neighboring states such as Pennsylvania (3rd most-expensive state), Delaware (11th most-expensive), and Virginia (8th most-expensive).

“The USM Board of Regents and leaders throughout our system have long prioritized college affordability,” said USM Chancellor Jay A. Perman. “Keeping tuition and fees down is a pledge we’ve made to our students and to their families, and it’s a pledge we’ve kept over many years. Helping us in this commitment are leaders in Annapolis, who know the quality of a USM education, who know what it makes possible for graduates, and who support us so we can open access to more and more students. Working together, we’ve made a real difference.”

Most USM Students Graduate with Little or No Debt

An even better affordability story involves student debt loads at USM institutions—with nearly 60 percent of in-state students graduating with little or no debt.  This is substantially below the national average.

USM data show that 50 percent of in-state baccalaureate recipients in 2020 completed their college experience with zero debt—with roughly 12 percent graduating with debt levels of less than $10,000.

Nationally, the average student debt level was $28,960 average for 2019, as cited by The Institute for College Access & Success, or TICAS, in its most recent collection of data.  For in-state USM students who did graduate owing money beyond the range zero dollars to $10,000, the median debt level was roughly $25,000.

The most recent and comprehensive report regarding USM financial aid was presented to the USM Board of Regents at the start of the 2020 fiscal year. These reports are prepared roughly every five years, to identify trends over a substantial period.

Rising Completion Rates Mean Less Cost

The USM also keeps down costs by decreasing the time-to-degree-completion and striving for continued improvement in 6-year-graduation rates. According to USM Institutional Research, system institutions conferred more than 28,000 bachelor’s degrees during the 2020-2021 academic year.

For the cohort of first-time, full-time freshmen that enrolled at USM schools in fall 2014, 72 percent had graduated by spring 2020. That six-year graduation rate (the national benchmark period) is an all-time high for the USM, and significantly higher than the national six-year rate of 62 percent. Eighty-seven (87) percent of USM freshmen who entered in fall 2019 returned for their sophomore year, tying the system record.

This progress in degree completion has occurred while the USM has increased its diversity, with students of color comprising the majority of undergraduate (and graduate) students across the system.

Student Aid, Campus Programs Add to Affordability

During FY 2020, USM institutions awarded a total of more than $1.73 billion in financial aid when combining undergraduate and graduate aid—$1.099 billion for undergraduates. Nearly 96,000 undergraduates received aid, with an average award (consisting of some combination of loans, grants, and work-study) of $11,466.

USM institutions are committed to offering programs and scholarships designed to make the college experience more affordable for students and their families.

At Coppin State University, the Student Debt Relief Initiative (SDRI) announced in July 2021 has cleared roughly $1 million in student balances. The unprecedented fund relief, available to students who enrolled during fall 2020 and spring 2021, results from federal funding in response to the COVID-19 pandemic via the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act.

In May 2021, the University of Maryland, College Park Incentive Awards Program (IAP) celebrated its 20th anniversary. Launched in 2000, IAP provides a full scholarship and additional support to exceptional students who demonstrate academic ability, uncommon persistence, and maturity in overcoming challenges. Originally designed for students from the City of Baltimore, the program has grown to include Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

Each year, U.S. News & World Report continues to recognize Bowie State University among the best regional universities that offer a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs. Bowie State ranks No. 76 among the Top Performers on Social Mobility list for success in serving students with financial need. The social mobility honor highlights Bowie State’s success in serving large numbers of students with federally funded Pell Grants, typically awarded to those with family incomes under $50,000. BSU programs in nursing and computer sciences also were recognized this year.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) is perennially recognized for its value. Princeton Review, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Forbes, Money, and the Fiske Guide to Colleges have named UMBC a “Best Value” university. UMBC’s Transfer Student Alliance (TSA) is a successful member benefit program for students who want to complete an associate’s degree at a Maryland community college (often to economize) before transferring to UMBC. The university has provided several recent updates in its ‘Funding Your Education’ page for undergraduates.

Money magazine has named Towson University the No. 1 best value Maryland public university. Among national public universities, Towson University climbed to No. 70 in social mobility, a classification that looks at the number of Pell Grant recipients and compares their graduation rates to those of non-Pell Grant recipients at the university. TU’s minority and Pell-eligible student populations far exceed the national average for academic success.

Salisbury University (SU) also once again made the U.S. News & World Report list of “Best Colleges for Veterans” and was ranked one of the “Top Performers on Social Mobility.” The university has updated its thorough resource page for funding an SU education here.

Washington Monthly recently ranked Frostburg State University (FSU) No. 91 in the Northeast in its “Best Bang for the Buck” category. FSU in recent years has established several new scholarships to help students ensure they don’t leave school only a few credits shy of completing their degree, due to challenges with personal budgets. The inaugural Unfinished Business Scholarship was created during the summer of 2017. A number of other alumni have also established scholarships and contributed funds to help current FSU students complete their degrees.  

U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of Baltimore (UBalt) No. 111 nationally in its latest rankings for Top Performers on Social Mobility.

At the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the Richard A. Henson Honors Program also offers merit scholarships to deserving students from across the university's diverse academic offerings.  Restricted scholarships assist qualified students in the PGA Golf Management program, Agricultural and Natural Sciences, Pharmacy, Aviation Science, and other programs. The Richard F. Hazel Scholars' initiative annually supports students from Maryland’s Eastern Shore who are pursuing teaching careers and a variety of other disciplines.  

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2022, the University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) was established to serve the higher education needs of adults in the workforce, including military service members, and provides a wide range of online programs in high-demand fields. UMGC is committed to affordability in several ways, including no-cost digital resources that have replaced textbooks for nearly every course, saving students thousands of dollars over the course of their degree program, as well as a scholarship program for Maryland community college graduates.

The USM’s three regional centers are the result of a visionary partnership between USM and campus leaders, elected officials, and business professionals. Established more than 20 years ago, the concept of the USM regional centers is unique nationally: These are not “satellite” campuses of a single university, but rather conveniently and strategically located sites where multiple universities deliver their most in-demand undergraduate, graduate, professional degree, and certificate programs.

The USM’s three regional centers are USM Southern Maryland (USMSM), the Universities at Shady Grove, and USM-Hagerstown. They are nimble, full-service extensions of the USM that respond to meet the educational needs of students and workforce needs of employers and that are—above all—an affordable alternative to traditional 4-year pathways. The USM regional centers offer degree programs through partner universities that allow students the opportunity to live, work, and study close to home.

The USM comprises 12 institutions: Bowie State University; Coppin State University; Frostburg State University; Salisbury University; Towson University; the University of Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; the University of Maryland, College Park; the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; and the University of Maryland Global Campus. The USM also includes three regional centers—the Universities at Shady Grove, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and the University System of Maryland at Southern Maryland—at which USM universities offer upper-division undergraduate and graduate courses.

Systemwide, student enrollment is roughly 165,000 students. The USM and its institutions compete successfully nearly $1.5 billion in external grants and contracts annually. USM institutions and programs are among the nation's best in quality and value according to several national rankings. To learn more about the University System of Maryland, visit


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719