The University System of Maryland regents voted yesterday to freeze tuition levels for in-state, undergraduate students during the 2008-2009 academic year, but some fees, including room and board, will continue to rise.
The decision marks the third consecutive year that the board has held down tuition fees. Full-time and part-time undergraduate, in-state students will continue to pay the same amount for tuition in 2009. However, part-time and full-time out-of-state students and graduate students will not benefit from the regents vote.
The tuition freeze was made possible after Gov. Martin O'Malley pushed for an increase in state funding to stave off a 4 percent increase in tuition proposed by the Board of Regents. O'Malley increased appropriations to the University System by 9.4 percent, funds that otherwise would have come from a rise in tuition for in-state students.
In-state students will not have to pay more in tuition, but they should expect increases in fees that all students must pay. The fees range from campus to campus, but at the University of Maryland, College Park, students must pay eight additional fees including fees for transportation, technology and performing arts. These fees add up to $1,439 for next year, that is on top of tuition, and room and board.
Room and board are considered "self-support fees" that the board voted to increase last March. The state does not fund these services found on campuses.
"These are all paid for via debt assumed by USM [University System of Maryland] and the fees collected to service the debt, maintain the facilities, renovating existing facilities, resurface parking lots, etc.," said John Buettner, a USM spokesman.
"Generally, the increases in these fees pace inflation and the ever-increasing costs for things such as the food supplies for dining services, energy and utilities, and contractual operators such as dining service or housekeeping companies," Buettner said.
O'Malley has made higher education a budget priority, investing nearly 30 percent more in colleges during his first two years in office than did his predecessor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., administration officials said.
With many other costs rising, University of Maryland, Baltimore County senior John Doyle said he is happy that tuition costs are not rising. Although he's not an in-state student, he pays the same tuition because he is an athlete. He picks up more cash through jobs that include working as a resident assistant on campus and as a research assistant, Doyle said. "I think it's exciting because the cost of everything else is going up ... room and board have all gone up. A lot of people have to struggle and find ways to compensate for all of the expenses."
Because some institutions rely more heavily on tuition, increasing rates for out-of-state students and graduate programs vary. For instance, an out-of-state student at UMBC won't see an increase in tuition next year, but another out-of-state student at University of Maryland University College will see a 5.2 percent increase.
As for graduate programs, students at the Maryland School of Law will have a $2,348 increase or 7.1 percent while School of Medicine students will have a 6 percent increase or $1,395 in 2009.
While in-state undergraduates have enjoyed a single, flat rate for tuition, the board is apprehensive about predicting costs for students in coming years.
"The board really wants to be able to tell an incoming freshman what cost they should expect for the next four years, just for family planning, that is our desire," said Clifford M. Kendall, chair for the Board of Regents. "Now because of economic conditions, political processes and so many other things that affect this, we cannot really project adequately."
While O'Malley supported the increased state funding this year, cost increases loom in the future for new students.
"We don't want higher education to suffer," Kendall said, adding that future increases might be necessary to maintain quality and they'd be kept as low as possible.
The University System of Maryland consists of 11 schools, two research facilities and two regional higher education centers. Of the 137,000 students enrolled at these state institutions, 80,000 are in-state, undergraduate students, Buettner said.
Del. Adrienne A. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said she hoped the legislature would be able to continue to freeze tuition increases. "It would be great if in the governor's four-year term that tuitions did not increase," Jones said. "If at all possible, we'd like to do that, but until we know what the economic situation is, it's hard to tell."