St. Mary's College Tuition Fourth Highest in Nation

By Guy Leonard,

HOLLYWOOD, Md.—St. Mary’s College of Maryland is consistently ranked among the top public liberal arts colleges in the nation year after year, and according to a federal report, it also ranks among the highest for tuition and fees for public institutions.

The National Center for Education Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Department of Education, reports that St. Mary’s College of Maryland ranks fourth in the nation for education costs students must pay to attend.

The local honors college ranks behind Pennsylvania State University, in first place, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Vermont for the cost of getting a postsecondary level education at $13,234 a year per student.

The national average for public college tuition is $6,397 per year, the report states.

The college’s president, Joseph Urgo, said that the increasing costs cut off access to more and more prospective students, but the college has to get enough money to deal with its own rising costs of doing business.

“The tuition list by the education department does not address why tuition is increasing, “Urgo said in a statement to The County Times. “As president of St. Mary’s College of Maryland I have been greatly concerned that our mission of public access to a residential liberal arts education has been threatened.

“Rising costs, such as for health care and energy, have left us with insufficient funds to fully support students and their families. We have made access our first priority again this year and are engaged with our supporters, the state of Maryland and alumni and friends of the college, to find creative solutions to this crisis.”

The report also shows that for the 2008 to 2009 school year 75 percent of beginning undergraduates received some type of financial aid from either grants, loans, scholarships or a mixture of the three; of all undergraduate students, 81 percent were receiving either grant or scholarship assistance.

Bob Schaller, director of the county’s Department of Economic and Community Development, said that the high cost of education at the local college was something of a good sign.

“When something is in demand the price goes up,” Schaller said. “It’s a good sign people are willing to pay to get into this institution.”

Schaller said the college’s value to the county is growing, because it turned out to be what he called a “net importer” of people from out of state who come here, learn here and stay to get hired.

This provides a steady stream of employees to help keep Naval Air Station Patuxent River running and competitive, he said.

Also, the college provides the same kind of education that a student could get at a private institution at less cost.

“St. Mary’s College is a bargain, it’s an equivalent private education at a public cost,” Schaller said.

While the college is owned by the state of Maryland, it does not fall under the University of Maryland system.  Instead, it is governed by its own board of directors, who are appointed by the governor.

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