The Baltimore school board is considering a more than 20 percent tuition increase next year for students who are not residents, which would make the city's rates higher than Baltimore County's and competitive with some Catholic programs.

Officials have proposed raising tuition for middle and high school students to $7,500. Elementary-age students would pay $7,000. Currently, the district charges $5,900 for middle/high school tuition and $5,670 for elementary tuition.

School officials said the increase would make its tuition rates, currently among the lowest in the state, more competitive. The city's rates have trailed most other school districts, but the proposal would put the city on par with or exceed the tuition charged by many others.

Baltimore School for the Arts is the only city school that still draws a large number of out-of-city residents; 100 of 406 students pay tuition. The number of students paying to attend other flagship schools such as the all-girls Western High, Polytechnic Institute and City College has dropped over the years.

In some cases, the city rates would exceed the elementary or middle/high school fee in Harford, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. In Howard County, students pay $9,600 to attend schools.

Baltimore County charges $6,230 for elementary grades and $6,267 for secondary grades.

The new city rates also would be higher than tuition at some area Catholic schools, such as St. Ambrose Catholic School, St. Pius X School, and St. Francis of Assisi School.

One Baltimore school board member questioned whether $7,500 was enough to cover the cost of educating students at the Baltimore School for the Arts.

But other board members were wary of an increase, which parents will be expected to pay in just a few months.

"If we go up any higher, it's a huge sticker shock to parents' systems," said Commissioner Tina Hike-Hubbard.

Board members said that in the future, they would like to consider a multiyear tuition schedule so parents know what to expect.

David Stone, vice chair of the school board, pointed out that the district is largely supported by Maryland taxpayer dollars — about 70 percent of the city's funds are from the state — so some of the cost of educating a student in the city is already paid for by county residents.

"A lot of folks are already paying for our system and to charge them twice doesn't seem fair," he said.

The school district grants tuition waivers for some students, such as children of employees and those whose families are experiencing financial hardship. The school board approved 43 employee waivers this year and three hardship waivers.

Baltimore County employees who are not residents pay between $500 and $1,000 for their students to attend county schools.

This year, 12 students are paying tuition to attend Western High in the city, compared with 32 three years ago. One student is paying to attend Poly, compared with 37 three years ago, and City College has only one tuition-paying student, compared with 10 three years ago.

The board could vote on the new rates as early as March 25.

erica.green@baltsun.com

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