By LAURA GURFEIN
WASHINGTON - It's cheaper to go to college in-state, especially if you live in Maryland.
Average in-state tuition and fees for this academic year at Maryland's public universities is lower than the national average, according to a report by the College Board released last month.
At University System of Maryland institutions, in-state students paid an average of $6,796 for the 2009-2010 academic year, according to the Maryland Higher Education Committee. Nationally, the average tuition at public four-year universities for this year was $7,020, representing a 6.5 percent, or $429, increase from last year, according to the College Board.
However, tuition and fees at each USM institution fall both above and below the national average. Students at the University of Maryland, College Park and University of Maryland Baltimore County paid more than $8,000 this year, while universities like Salisbury and Frostburg State charged about $6,650.
Maryland's public universities, along with Morgan State University, have frozen tuition for resident students for four consecutive years, drastically changing their national ranking for college affordability.
On a national level, "Maryland has moved from the eighth-highest state in resident undergraduate tuition in 2006 to the 16th-highest in 2009," according to the commission.
However, the university system's Board of Regents is unsure whether the freeze is sustainable, considering the severe budget cuts the state mandated this year and likely the next.
"The chancellor has said publicly that we have to consider where we are with the undergraduate in-state tuition freeze," said Mike Lurie, USM media relations director.
The board has yet to set tuition for the next academic year because it's waiting for a finalized budget from the state for fiscal year 2011, Lurie said.
Despite the freeze, costs have gone up. Mandatory fees rose 1.3 percent, raising the total price (tuition and fees) by 4 percent, over the past four years.
Out-of-state student tuition has seen significant increases recently, both in Maryland and nationally. This year, the state capped out-of-state tuition increases at 4 percent for undergraduate students and 7 percent for graduate students.
The average national price for out-of-state tuition and fees increased about 6.2 percent from last year, to $18,548. Non-resident university system students at College Park and University of Baltimore paid above this average, at $23,990 and $20,278 respectively, while non-resident students at all other USM institutions paid below the national average.
The report repeatedly mentioned that a school's listed tuition, or "sticker price" is often not what a student pays after loans, grants, and scholarships are factored in.
"Almost two-thirds of undergraduate students enrolled full-time receive grants that reduce the actual price of college. In addition, many states and institutions grant tuition waivers to groups of students such as dependents of employees, veterans or teachers," according to the report.
Maryland students are not an exception to this statistic, as more continue to take advantage of available aid.
"Financial aid applications for Maryland students increased from 100,000 in FY 2009 to 129,000 in FY 2010. This increase was a direct result of the changes in the economy during the previous year," the state's higher education commission reported.
The complete report is available online at http://www.trends-collegeboard.com/college_pricing/.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.