- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s College of Maryland will increase tuition by just 2 percent next year, in part thanks to extra money provided by the state legislature.
The college’s board of trustees voted in March to raise tuition by 4 percent, but that increase was cut in half due to the additional funding by the state that was included in Maryland’s budget signed last week by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
The state legislature in special session this month altered the Higher Education Investment Fund to reduce in-state tuition for St. Mary’s College students. The additional $383,000 must be used to reduce by 2 percent any tuition increases deemed necessary at the college.
“The state is including us in the tuition buy-down this year,” Joseph Urgo, St. Mary’s College of Maryland president, said Tuesday. “In the past, we weren’t included in that.”
Urgo said that during the last year he has made the case to lawmakers that St. Mary’s College should be included in any statewide tuition reductions for state higher education institutions. He said it does not violate the block grant funding agreement that the college has with the state, since the special tuition reduction benefits students directly.
“Apparently our argument prevailed,” Urgo said.
The college’s board of trustees unanimously voted to pass the new tuition rates in a special meeting last week. With the new tuition rate, a full-time Maryland student will pay $26,063 next year for tuition, fees, room and board at St. Mary’s College, which is still a hike of $718 per student for the year. The 4 percent tuition hike would have added another $240.
“This is wonderful news for our students and their parents and is especially meaningful for our trustees who will continue to work diligently to offer a high-quality liberal arts education that remains affordable,” Molly Mahoney Matthews, trustee chair, said in a statement. “We are grateful to the governor and to the state legislature for their understanding of the unique place our college has in the state and for demonstrating that they value the distinct education our faculty and community provide for students.”
Urgo has said he would like to lower tuition, by as much as 12 percent, to help bring the rates more in line with other Maryland colleges and universities. He said this week that he will continue to talk to lawmakers to work toward that goal, or to at least keep the college from having to raise rates dramatically.
Students and their families will receive revised rate information in the mail this summer to reflect the 2 percent tuition hike.
The tuition increase was debated by the trustees in March, and the 4 percent raise was eventually passed under the assumption that some of the money would go to a fund for raises to some employees who haven’t received pay increases in several years.
All state employees at the college are due for a 2 percent raise in January 2013, along with all other state employees, Tom Botzman, the college’s vice president for business and finance, said this week.
In addition, college administrators are seeking authority from state lawmakers to give some employees raises above the 2 percent, paid for by part of the tuition increase. The board of trustees voted to create the raise pool to supplement employees who haven’t received raises in a number of years.
The extra raises “are still something we have to figure out with the state,” Botzman said. The state said that state employees cannot receive merit raises until 2014, he said.
The college has budgeted money for the extra raises, but must wait for approval by the state to give out the raises, he said.