By ALLYSON DICKMAN
WASHINGTON (Dec. 10, 2008)—University System of Maryland colleges are likely to face "modest" tuition increases next year because of the recession, said Chancellor William "Brit" Kirwan.
"In this fiscal time, yes, we may see some modest increase in tuition," said Kirwan after a College Board news conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Maryland has enjoyed a three-year tuition freeze for in-state undergraduate students at public universities under Gov. Martin O'Malley. Before the freeze, the University System of Maryland raised tuition by as much as 33 percent, between 2002 and 2004, to account for budget deficits and declining state funding.
Under the freeze, Maryland went from the sixth- to the 16th-highest in-state tuition nationally, and O'Malley hopes to keep moving down the list, said Kirwan. Maryland is the only state to keep tuition levels from rising for three years, he said.
Keeping a tuition freeze "is going to be a challenge," he said. "I don't think there's any prospect we will return to double-digit tuition increases ... If there is an increase in tuition, it will be what we all consider a modest level."
O'Malley hasn't made a tuition freeze decision for next year, said spokesman Shaun Adamec.
"The cuts have been felt all around," he said. "The governor would like to continue (the tuition freeze), but it's too early to tell. The governor has been clear that nothing can be off the table."
Maryland will have an estimated $1 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year, which includes the University System of Maryland. On Oct. 15, O'Malley approved more than $345 million in budget cuts and more are expected.
The University System of Maryland will likely take action on tuition in January or early February, Kirwan said.
At the University of Maryland, College Park, in-state tuition is $6,566 and out-of-state tuition is $21,637, both have $1,439 in additional fees, this academic year. At Towson University, in-state students pay $5,180 and out-of-state students pay $15,726 per year. Additional fees are $7,314.
On Tuesday, St. Mary's College of Maryland announced a plan to increase tuition and fees for next year by 5 percent. The 2009 to 2010 in-state price tag will be $22,874, up from this year's $21,559.
The school of 2,000 students is a public college, not under the University System of Maryland, so it does not share the tuition freeze. The college has increased tuition by about 5 percent a year for three years, said Marc Apter, vice president of marketing for the college.
This year's increase was due to increasing costs of energy and food, and decreasing endowments, Apter said.
St. Mary's also plans to save $1.7 million through position attrition, reduction in vacation roll-over for staff, deferring salary increases and initiating energy-saving mandates for facilities.
The Maryland Board of Regents meets Friday to discuss and pass a furlough plan in anticipation of further budget cuts, Kirwan said. The plan will give campuses flexibility, but one principle will be to tier furlough days by income.
University of Maryland, College Park President Dan Mote announced in a campus-wide e-mail Monday that if O'Malley signs an executive order for state employees making more than $60,000 to take five furlough days, he and university employees will participate. Mote's salary for 2008 was $431,900. Other employees' furloughs will be based on income, Mote said.
Statewide furloughs are expected to save $34 million, according to the governor's plan.
Kirwan attended a College Board news conference Wednesday, along with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, to discuss the report, "Coming to Our Senses: Education and the American Future." The report said accessibility and graduation rates of higher education need to increase in order for the United States to keep up with the global economy.
"Some 250,000 students a year, who complete a pre-college curriculum, fail to enroll in college," Kirwan said, "because of the costs and complexities in the admissions and financial aid processes."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.