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Budget Shortfall Raises Question: Will State College Tuition Rise?

Freeman Hrabowski, educator, at TED2013: The Young, The Wise, The Undiscovered. Tuesday, February 26, 2013, Long Beach, CA. Photo: James Duncan Davidson.
TED Conference via flickr

A week after analysts announced a state budget deficit, Freeman Hrabowski, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore County sent his staff an email stating that a hiring freeze would go into effect December 1st.

The email also warned that “uncertainty remains about the extent of expected reductions,” referring to budget cuts that may come as a result of the deficit.

Maryland is facing a $300 million budget shortfall this fiscal year. And that number is expected to double in the next fiscal year. That’s bad news for Maryland’s public colleges. Higher education makes up a large chunk of that budget – 15 percent this year – and rebalancing the budget could require changes on campuses.

Budget cuts generally mean higher costs for students. As universities have struggled with widespread cuts, annual tuition has increased by 28 percent nationwide. Here are some recent specific cases:

●     The University of Tennessee’s Board of Trustees agreed in June to increase tuition by 6 percent.

●     Tuition rates in the University of California system have shot up as a result of what the university system called “declining state support.” In 2011, tuition increased by 9.6 percent, less than a yearafter an 8 percent increase. The president of the university, Janet Napolitano, has pledged to develop a plan to stabilize tuition.

●     Washington state’s higher education system is also facing potential cuts. Washington State University predicted up to a 17 percent increase in in-state tuition.

State spending can recover, but the percentage of the university’s revenue that comes from tuition usually remains at a higher rate than it had been before cuts. In short, universities will rely on tuition more than they did before.

Under Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich, tuition at Maryland’s public colleges increased by 40 percent between 2003 and 2007. Governor-elect Larry Hogan, a Republican who served in Ehrlich’s cabinet, says he didn’t agree with the cuts. He told The Diamondback (UM-College Park’s student newspaper), he “promised he would work to reduce spending at public institutions to reduce the financial burden on students.”

Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Prince George’s) told The Diamondback, “I would not anticipate the kind of tuition increases that happened under the last Republican governor, because the price of college is so high as it is that we can’t go much further without totally bankrupting people.”

Experts have warned Hogan against cutting funding to Maryland’s well-regarded schools, but it seems that students will just have to wait and see how much they’ll have to shell out next school year.