As students who are directly affected by the cost of tuition, we believe it is important to explain why a fourth straight tuition freeze for resident undergraduate students at our public universities is so important for Maryland.
Even with tuition frozen for three years, student costs have increased. Since 2005, mandatory fees for students (for parking, student unions and recreation services) have increased 15 percent; room, by 14 percent; and board, by 13 percent at the University of Maryland, College Park. Couple these increases with the rising costs of textbooks (increasing at four times the rate of inflation), transportation and other associated costs, and an in-state student's annual bill can reach more than $20,000.
Most students in the University System of Maryland are not wealthy. Our parents are teachers, government workers, nurses and police officers. This economic crisis has hit our families hard, and we need any financial break we can get to continue pursuing a college degree - which will better position us to contribute to Maryland's vibrant, knowledge-based economy.
We need a tuition freeze to help keep costs affordable so that we can stay enrolled. Maryland is witnessing an amazing transformation in public higher education. New facilities are being built on campuses across the state, and academic standards continue to rise. The state's public universities are ranked among the nation's best and are educating more students than ever. At the same time, our classes are more racially and socioeconomically diverse than previous classes.
Continuing the tuition freeze will not hinder this growth at all. To the contrary, it will help open doors for more Marylanders to share the outstanding opportunity of attending a public university. The proposed freeze would cost the state $16 million, a small fraction of the more than $1 billion in state investment in higher education each year.
"Governing is choosing," and Gov. Martin O'Malley has chosen to invest in Maryland's future, so that we can fill the jobs of our state's advancing economy. This is a long-term, worthwhile strategy for investing in the minds needed for Maryland's future success.
Jonathan Sachs is Student Government Association president at the University of Maryland, College Park. Josh Michael is a student member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents and a UMBC student.