ST. MARY'S CITY, Md. (Dec. 9, 2008)—The St. Mary's College of Maryland (SMCM) Board of Trustees has voted to raise tuition and fees for the next academic year by 5 percent. The rise in tuition, room and fees will be accompanied by an increase in the cost for board, which will go up from $107 to $450, depending on the meal plan a student chooses. Overall, in-state tuition, fees, room and board for the 2009-2010 academic year will total $22,874, up from $21,559 for the 2008-2009 academic year.
The trustees cited the current economic crisis, increased operating costs, and endowment shortfalls as the rationale for the increase.
St. Mary's College of Maryland is the first higher education institution in the state to announce a tuition increase.
The Board of Trustees says they have taken strong measures to reduce overall operating costs to offset projected lower state contributions to the budget. These will include position attrition, a reduction in accrued vacation carry-over for staff members, a deferral of staff and faculty salary increases, and energy-savings mandates for college facilities. The total cost savings from all initiatives is projected to be about $1.7 million.
"As in our private lives, we've had to tighten our belts at the college in coping with the current economic uncertainty. In the last nine months, we've done the very tough work of finding ways to cut our costs and increase revenues without jeopardizing the academic quality of the honors college or the residential life of our students. We remain firmly committed to our core mission and will not let any budget challenge deter us," said SMCM President Jane Margaret O'Brien in a prepared statement.
Among the various constrained revenue sources are returns on the SMCM Foundation endowment which is down 9.6 percent through the first ten months of 2008. The recession-driven drop in foundation endowment earnings will put pressure on the college's operating budget to cover student scholarships. Meanwhile, gifts to SMCM from the community and alumni had remained slightly ahead of last year through the first nine months of the year at $2.4 million with an anticipated drop off expected in the final quarter because of economic conditions.
A bright spot is the college's enrollment numbers, which remain at record levels and at projections for next year. St. Mary's College of Maryland continues to be recognized as a good value, particularly when compared to its current and aspirant peer schools (those U.S. liberal arts schools that are similar to SMCM in student population size, curriculum and academic quality). Fifteen out of the college's 19 peer and aspirant peer schools have higher costs than SMCM.
Maryland's state schools are not alone in feeling the pressure. The Denver-based Education Commission of the States estimates that 80 percent of the states face budget shortfalls in the fiscal year that begins in July 2009. The president of the American Council on Education predicts that students in most states could face double-digit tuition increases next year. The State University of New York, for example, is set to raise annual tuition more than 14 percent next spring. California state colleges and universities are facing a proposed $460 million in cuts in higher education funds. Idaho public colleges are proposing tuition increases of over 10 percent, while Nevada public colleges have asked for a 25-percent increase. The tuition, room and fees increase for SMCM out-of-state students will be 5 percent. Total costs for out-of-state students will rise from $32,409 to $34,267.
Source: St. Mary's College of Maryland