COLLEGE PARK, Md.
Gov. Robert Ehrlich proposed raising higher education funding by $172 million for the upcoming fiscal year, an increase state university officials said would enable them to keep tuition increases relatively low during the next academic year.
Included in Ehrlich’s proposals is a $117.2 million, or 14.5 percent, hike in funding for the state’s 13 public institutions that compose the University System of Maryland.
“Higher education in the state of Maryland is on a roll,” Ehrlich told a full University of Maryland auditorium that included college presidents, regents of the state system, university workers and Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams.
The governor’s proposal includes spending $3.7 million to seed a $1.5 billion fundraising campaign, adding $19 million for need-based scholarships, giving Morgan State University $9.5 million and allotting $14.5 million for community colleges. The state’s historically Black colleges would receive an additional $5.9 million.
The proposed budget, which would have to be approved by the General Assembly, will likely lead to tuition increases for the 2006-2007 academic year no greater than 4.5 percent at system schools, according to chancellor William Kirwan. There may be little or no tuition growth at some of the 11 campuses in the university system, he said.
“It will be a very modest increase,” said Kirwan, one of several higher education officials who loudly praised Ehrlich’s budget.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to review and vote on tuition rates at last week’s meeting at Towson University.
But some lawmakers and higher education officials noted that much of Ehrlich’s proposed budget only makes up for deep cuts in higher education funding that Ehrlich made in the past several years to help cover state deficits.
The system budget, which stood at $867 million in the fall of 2002, fell to $746 million in Ehrlich’s 2005 fiscal year budget. After a modest increase last year to roughly $800 million, the current proposal would raise state funding to $925.5 million.
In response to the drop in state money, the Board of Regents passed a series of big tuition increases, raising rates by more than 40 percent over several years. Tuition at College Park grew from $4,572 in the fall of 2002 to $6,566 last semester.
“He’s out there today saying, ‘Look at the great job I’m doing.’ He’s the guy who pushed the University of Maryland under the bus, and he wants credit for taking them to the emergency room,” said State Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, who sponsored legislation two years ago to boost university aid that was vetoed by Ehrlich because it would have raised the money through higher corporate taxes.
Andrew Rose, the student body president at the College Park campus, said students and their families want higher education to remain affordable and are against tuition hikes. However, he was supportive of Ehrlich’s proposal for increased funding.
“We want zero tuition increases, but it could be worse,” Rose said.
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