Gov. Martin O'Malley never misses a chance to talk about "making college more affordable." He highlighted a years-long tuition freeze in television commercials, contrasting it with a 40 percent tuition increase while Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was governor. And he includes the freeze talking point in nearly every campaign speech. Whether he is at a retirement home in Montgomery County or a community center in Baltimore, it always inspires enthusiastic applause.
One group is not impressed: The Diamondback. The editorial board of the University Of Maryland's independent newspaper this morning endorsed Ehrlich.
The Diamondback wrote that the tuition freeze under O'Malley wasn't all roses and sunshine, noting that it prompted furlough days that harmed staff morale and didn't include student fees, which continued to rise. After four years of freezes, the first of which began under Ehrlich, tuition went up 3 percent this year. The editorial board said both candidates have acknowledged that tuition is likely to go up again next year, "Ehrlich has been more forthright about this unpopular reality."
Both candidates have collected newspaper endorsements across the state. The editorial boards of The Sun and The Post both back O'Malley, while the opinion pages of The Gazette, The Washington Times and others support Ehrlich.
The Diamondback's choice of Ehrlich over the Democratic candidate comes about a month after an editorial that blasted the Republican's taxing policies.
"The naive proposal to cut the sales tax to a level already deemed impractical is not only obvious pandering to anxious voters, it's reckless, too," that editorial concluded. The Sept. 28 piece also noted that "Ehrlich's support of higher education has long been questionable."
Today's editorial endorsing Ehrlich warns "our support comes with significant reservations," but says Ehrlich "has presented a clear vision for the future of higher education in this state."
Diamondback Opinion Editor Justin Snow said the editorial board interviewed both candidates. The endorsement, Snow said in an email, "comes from the perspective of higher education, not all the issues as a whole."
In his interview, Ehrlich committed to increasing need-based aid as tuition rises, while O'Malley focused on the past tuition freeze and "shied away from" talking about how he would approach higher education if reelected, Snow said.
O'Malley's campaign had no comment. Ehrlich's campaign has touted The Diamondback endorsement on his Facebook page.