Students at Maryland's public colleges would see their tuition rise by hundreds of dollars next school year under a proposal that's expected to win approval Friday.
The board of regents for the University System of Maryland, which includes 12 of the state's public universities, is scheduled to vote on the proposed rate hike. Tuition would increase 2 percent for in-state students and 3 percent for out-of-state students.
Gov. Larry Hogan included the increases in his annual budget, which the General Assembly approved during the session that ended Monday, but the proposal must be approved by the regents.
Tuition had been frozen at Maryland's public universities for several years — a move that was applauded during the recession and then reversed as some worried that it hampered growth and stalled university and academic improvements.
The proposal would be the smallest annual increase since the tuition freeze was lifted in 2010.
"Obviously we don't like tuition increases," said Patrick Ronk, the student body president at the University of Maryland, College Park.
But compared to tuition hikes at other university systems around the country, Ronk said, the proposal seemed reasonable. "We're in a pretty envious position compared to a lot of other states," he said.
Kurt Anderson, the student government association president at Towson University, echoed that sentiment. He said friends at universities in other states are facing much higher tuition increases.
"I think it's very reasonable," he said of the proposal in Maryland. "You've got to keep up with inflation. For the most part, everything is going up; you've got to be able to keep pace."
But Shaquille Carbon, the student government association president at Coppin State University, said students at his campus are upset about repeated tuition increases over the past few years.
"It means less access to higher education, simply put," he said. "All across the country college tuition is skyrocketing, but the paychecks aren't going up. It's putting us further in debt."
Regent Francis X. Kelly Jr. predicted that the proposed rates would pass because they were hammered out during negotiations in the General Assembly. Still, he said he doesn't relish voting for increases.
"We're very aware of the sacrifices people make on tuition, so it's not something we like to do," he said. "So we'll hold our nose and vote."
The University of Maryland, Baltimore would see bigger tuition increases.
Tuition would rise at different rates at the various professional schools at UMB. The nursing school plans to charge master's degree students 6.2 percent more and Ph.D. students 5.8 percent more. Part-time, out-of-state nursing undergraduates would pay 46.3 percent more under the proposal, bringing their course fees to $1,179 per credit hour from $806.
Alex Likowski, a spokesman for UMB, said the nursing school is costly to run with its high-tech simulation labs and a large clinical component.
Previous tuition increases for in-state students in the university system have been held between 3 percent and 5 percent annually after a tuition freeze for in-state, four-year students pushed by former Gov. Martin O'Malley ended.
Last year, some colleges, including College Park, imposed a small midyear increase after the state ordered $40 million in unexpected cuts to the university system's budget.
Regent Gary Attman called the latest proposal "reasonable" and "modest."
"We do have expenses, but we really manage them very carefully to make sure that we offer the citizens of Maryland the most for their money," he said.
USM Chancellor Robert L. Caret said that "the governor and legislature really believe in education and have done more than most states to keep the costs reasonable." He added: "Our job is to build high-quality campuses and to keep the costs reasonable, and we do try to do that."
If approved, tuition and fees would be $9,408 annually for in-state undergraduates at Towson University, $10,181 for those at College Park, and $8,596 for University of Baltimore undergraduates.
Morgan State University, which is governed by its own board of regents and is not part of the University System of Maryland, has not voted on whether to raise tuition, spokesman Clint Coleman said.
Hogan's budget also included a 2 percent tuition increase for that institution. Morgan's in-state undergraduates now pay $7,508 annually for tuition and fees.
In addition to the nursing program increases, the University of Maryland, Baltimore is proposing charging full-time and part-time juris doctoral students the same tuition amount over the course of the program.
"Our view is it's about fairness," said UMB law school dean Donald Tobin. "The idea was to equalize it so all students were generally paying what they expected to pay when they went to law school."
Geoffrey Heinzl, president of the University Student Government Association at UMB, said he wasn't surprised by the tuition increases, which he called "mild."
"All of our programs are fairly expensive, but our students have really great [job] placement rates after graduation, and I don't think that it will seriously deter our students," he said. "It's just going to mean a lot more debt after."
College Park is in the second year of phasing in higher tuition for juniors and seniors in certain majors — business, engineering and computer science. The increase will cost students an additional $700, or $1,400, per year starting next school year. It will eventually rise to $2,800 annually by 2018.
UM President Wallace Loh has said the so-called differential tuition will allow the university to accommodate more undergraduates in those programs and improve the level of teaching. He also noted that other Big 10 universities use the same tuition model.
Proposed tuition and fee increases for in-state undergraduates
Bowie State University $7,658 to $7,880
Coppin State University $6,362 to $6,448
Frostburg State University $8,488 to $8,702
Salisbury University $9,086 to $9,364
Towson University $9,182 to $9,408
University of Baltimore $8,326 to $8,596
University of Maryland, Baltimore County $11,006 to $11,264
University of Maryland, College Park $9,996 to $10,181
University of Maryland Eastern Shore $7,625 to $7,804
University of Maryland, University College $6,696 to $6,816