Several Maryland colleges, including the state's flagship University of Maryland, College Park and Towson University, are imposing a rare midyear tuition increase as the institutions grapple with state aid being slashed.
The University System of Maryland's Board of Regents voted Friday to allow state colleges to raise tuition by 2 percent, and the College Park campus was given approval to impose a surcharge. In addition to hiring freezes that have been imposed across the system, schools also can furlough employees, eliminate jobs or postpone maintenance projects to save money.
As the state tackles an 18-month deficit that once stood at nearly $1.2 billion, state agencies and programs have been feeling the pinch. The university system saw its state funding cut by more than $40 million as part of recent budget cuts.
So far, only four universities — Maryland's College Park campus, Towson, Frostburg State University and Salisbury University — have decided to raise tuition to offset funding cuts that were spread among them. University officials said they planned to begin notifying students and parents.
While most other university system schools are still working on how to absorb the cuts, University of Maryland, Baltimore County officials said the school would not raise tuition or implement furloughs. Officials said the school would delay some initiatives and spread out costs.
Full-time resident undergraduates at the College Park campus will pay $152 more this spring because of the tuition increase and surcharge, and those at the other schools will see tuition bills rise as much as $62. That comes on top of a 3 percent tuition increase for all Maryland schools in the fall. It's the first midyear increase in 12 years.
All four schools pledged to use some funds generated by tuition increases to aid low-income students.
University of Maryland, College Park student body President Patrick Ronk called the tuition hike "deeply upsetting."
"You sign up to pay a certain amount of tuition," he said. "People are always upset about tuition going up every year, but in the middle of the year is just ridiculous."
Zachary McGee, a Towson senior and president of the University System of Maryland Student Council, said the regents wouldn't have considered the hikes "unless they absolutely had to." Still, he said, midyear tuition increases take everyone by surprise. The coming semester begins Jan. 26.
"However little or however much it is, people aren't budgeting for this," he said. "Students shouldering the cost is never a good thing, in my eyes."
The College Park campus also announced Friday it would implement furloughs of up to three days for campus employees.
University President Wallace Loh said that the number of furlough days employees must take would be determined by compensation, adding that he and other top administrators will take three days. Those at the bottom of the pay scale might not need to take any furloughs.
Many employees were shocked by the scale of the budget cuts, said William Stuart, an anthropology professor and a University of Maryland representative on the Council of University System Faculty. They knew budget cuts were imminent; they just didn't realize the magnitude, he said.
"The question that troubles a lot of us is, how the hell did this happen?" Stuart said. "How did it get this bad? … This is humongous."
William Kirwan, chancellor of the university system, said that each institution has some autonomy in covering its share of the deficit.
"Even though the first public action was tuition, it was, for institutions, the last thing to come onto the table," Kirwan said. "This is not where people started in making their cuts. The only reason it comes up now, pure and simple, is that if you're going to use a tuition surcharge, it has to be done right now, because of the billing."
The efforts come after the state Board of Public Works approved Gov. Martin O'Malley's recommended budget cuts. Kirwan said that last month, the university system had been told to prepare for funding cuts in the range of $8.5 million.
"We very much feel that this is very much a shared burden," said Salisbury President Janet Dudley-Eshbach. "We are aware that will present some hardship. We had planned for a cut, but not of this magnitude."
The University of Maryland, College Park's share of the funding cut to the university system is $15.6 million. Loh said the furloughs represent $3 million of the reduction, and the tuition increase $4 million.
"When one is looking at a $15.6 million cut that must be done this semester, that is not a small amount," Loh said. "Remember, too, that we had cuts back in the fall. They add up. I think we are state employees, and like all state employees, we must share in the pain of putting the fiscal house in order."
For out-of-state undergraduates, the University of Maryland, College Park would charge a flat-rate $279 surcharge, and graduate students will see a one-time surcharge of up to $100. Part-time undergraduate and graduate rates also will be increased.
Towson's share of the funding cut was about $3.5 million, interim President Timothy J.L. Chandler said in a statement.
The administration will bear more than 70 percent of the cuts, with the midyear tuition increases helping to make up the rest, he said. Equipment purchases and travel also are being reduced or eliminated.
"Sharing this financialburdenwith our students is a decision we take very seriously," he said. "After discussing the news with a group of student leaders, they fully understood that the increase was preferred over cutting student services, and that the timing and severity of this cut made it necessary."
The midyear increase will be waived for students "with exceptionally high financial need," he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this article.
Tuition on the rise
University of Maryland, College Park
Tuition increase: $76
One-time surcharge: $76 for in-state residents, $279 for out-of-state
Tuition increase: $60
Tuition increase: $62
Frostburg State University
Tuition increase: $58
*Tuition increases are for full-time undergraduate resident students.
**At Towson, Salisbury and Frostburg, charges for resident undergraduate part-time credit hours increase by $5.
***University of Maryland, Baltimore County has decided not to raise tuition midyear. Other universities in the system are still working on how to absorb funding cuts.