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Board Approves 5.8 Percent Increase

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the percentage of increase to the higher education 2006 fiscal year budget. Appropriations increased 4.8 percent, as noted below.

By Deitrich Curry
Capital News Service
Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2005; corrected Jan. 28, 2005

ADELPHI - The University System of Maryland Board of Regents approved an average tuition increase of 5.8 percent Wednesday and rejected an amendment to cap tuition increases at 5 percent for the next three years.

The amendment, proposed by Regent James C. Rosapepe and considered by the regents' finance committee, would have required the board to tap $2.7 million from more than $200 million in unallocated funds from Gov. Robert Ehrlich's $25.9 billion budget.

Several members said they were uncomfortable requesting more money from the governor, so they opted to approve the 5.8 percent tuition increase recommended by Chancellor Brit Kirwan.

After several years of cuts to the system budget, Gov. Robert Ehrlich raised the university budget by 4.8 percent or $43 million in 2006.

"[The governor] came up with the 5.7 (percent) increase when other state agencies received cuts," Regent Patricia Florestano said. "Politically it is the wrong move to ask the governor for more money."

The 5.8 percent tuition increase is the lowest students have seen in awhile. Tuition has risen an average of 30 percent over the last couple of years.

The governor's funding boost kept tuition increases from soaring into double digits, Kirwan said.

The increase also contributed to the failure of a movement to override Gov. Robert Ehrlich's veto of a bill to cap tuition at 5 percent for the next three years.

Kirwan said he was grateful for the increase and added the board acted prudently in approving the average 5.8 percent tuition increase.

"It's a huge plus for the students," he said.

When the chancellor originally went to Ehrlich about extra higher education money in December, he said the governor offered $30 million more, but later added $13 million.

"Our very good situation got even better," Kirwan said.

Still, Rosapepe wanted to keep the cost low for the next three years and proposed an amendment to obtain the money from unallocated funds in the governor's budget. It would require asking $2.7 million more from the governor.

"We need to ask the governor to make up the difference instead of the money coming out of the student's pocket," Kirwan said.

Other members agreed it would be a bad political move to ask for more money.

Regent Marvin Mandel, a former Maryland governor, called the amendment irresponsible.

"To go back to the governor and say you didn't get enough is a terrible move," Mandel said.

While C.D. Mote, president of the University of Maryland, College Park commended Rosapepe's efforts to "provide predictability in tuition for students" he said the university needed the 5.8 percent tuition increase "to avoid further cuts in other programs."

Rosapepe said he will go directly to the General Assembly with his amendment.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "The board missed out on a leadership opportunity."

Copyright 2005 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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