Maryland's university system froze tuition for four years, until the fall of 2010, after large increases under then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Though the recent freeze was intended to make college more accessible, some schools — including Towson University and Salisbury University — reduced admissions as a financial offset. In 2009, Towson admitted nearly 1,000 fewer freshmen and enrolled 400 fewer than the previous year, even with applications reaching 15,623 in 2009, up from 11,750 in 2005.

Danette Howard, the state's interim secretary for higher education, called O'Malley's proposed tuition increase this year "modest" and said some campuses want larger increases to keep up with rising enrollment.

Anwer Hasan, chairman of the Maryland Higher Education Commission, said he believes Obama's proposal would benefit students — and parents — across the state. It'll be a process of balancing, he said, to determine the best formula for institutions to produce successful graduates while keeping down costs.

"I'm sure things will evolve over time," he said. "To me, [Obama's proposal] is a good start."

All but one of the president's proposals require congressional approval, a high hurdle given the partisan bickering that has left Washington in gridlock. However, Obama administration officials say some of the ideas have received GOP support in the past.

And they contend that an increase in Perkins loan funding would not add to the deficit, because the loans are paid back.

The only proposal that can move forward without Congress is a "college scorecard," which would break down the costs of enrollment in an easily digestible format, Abernathy said. The scorecard would be published by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Obama administration also is pushing a college "shopping sheet" that would be produced by colleges for admitted students, breaking down the costs of enrollment. If the administration wants to make such a sheet mandatory, Congress would have to approve it.

Some of the ideas have previously faced resistance from higher education trade groups on Capitol Hill, and it is unclear how those groups will respond. Many were being briefed on the proposal for the first time Friday afternoon.

"Our central concern with the proposal is the likelihood that it will move decision-making in higher education from college campuses to Washington," said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. "The federal government has increasingly inserted itself in the day-to-day operations of colleges and universities."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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steve.kilar@baltsun.com

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