Gov. Parris N. Glendening backed yesterday a state initiative to create a "prepaid tuition" program, saying it could help ensure that low- and middle-income Marylanders could afford to send their children to college.
The program would enable Maryland parents to purchase a contract today that would pay their children's future tuition payments at the state's public campuses. Similar programs exist in at least 10 states.
The American dream, Glendening said, is that the members of each generation will surpass the prosperity of their parents.
"That dream is being closed for a lot of people," said Glendening, who was the first in his family to attend college, and who credits his education for his professional success. "I am absolutely convinced that any student who is turned away or discouraged from undergraduate or graduate education is a future loss for our society."
Glendening, a former professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland College Park, made his remarks in an address to a friendly audience -- the faculty senate at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. A longtime champion of education, Glendening noted that he had proposed increased spending for the state's community colleges and public universities in his first two budgets, even as he called for cuts in other areas.
"We're going to control the costs of tuition by increasing support for higher education," Glendening said. "You've got to invest if you want successful higher education."
At Maryland's 13 public campuses, tuition increased an average of 46.6 percent in five years from fall 1990 to fall 1994 -- a rate that far outpaced inflation. The prepaid program is intended to protect families against such rapid increases.
Under Patricia S. Florestano, Maryland's secretary of higher education, a task force will start next week to consider how to set up a prepaid tuition program in such a way that it will not cost the state money. The General Assembly has appropriated $750,000 for Florestano's panel, but Glendening's remarks yesterday gave the measure added momentum.
The money gained from parents would be invested by state officials to generate income at a rate intended to more than offset the increases in tuition. While they are intended to be self-supporting, prepaid tuition programs that exist in widely varying forms in at least 10 states have shown mixed results.
In Florida, which has the largest such tuition program in the country, approximately 376,000 children are signed up -- about one in every nine Florida children, according to Stanley Tate, chairman of the board of the Florida Pre-paid Post-secondary Education program.
"It's a win-win-win situation," Tate said. He said the program accomplishes several goals: It encourages the state to hold the line on tuition increases, because officials are expected to cover future tuition payments without using state funds. It gives families a way to set aside money for tuition. And it encourages students to attend college in Florida, thus stemming the drain of intellectual talent by campuses in other states.
Florida has a surplus of $205 million on a pool of $1.5 billion, Tate said. In Michigan, however, officials found their program to be too expensive. When Gov. John Engler took office, he suspended the program and then allowed it to restart under less generous terms. The cost was raised and the number of participants fell sharply.
Pub Date: 9/12/96