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St. Mary’s College of Maryland students could see an unprecedented five-year tuition freeze if a Maryland General Assembly bill is approved this spring.

President Joseph Urgo said the bill, introduced by Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s), would prohibit the college’s board of trustees from raising tuition for five years. In exchange, the state would give funding increases equivalent to a 4 percent tuition hike (or about $800,000) each year. That would save students or their parents about $500 a year.

Bohanan chairs the education and economic development subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. He could not be reached by press time Tuesday.

Urgo said he has high hopes that the bill will pass.

“There is increased funding to higher education” included in the governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014, Urgo said. “There is money available.”

He said people have come to recognize that the tuition freeze at most Maryland public colleges and universities that excluded St. Mary’s College for half a dozen years hurt St. Mary’s students, as the college continued to raise its tuition to cover increasing costs and some program expansion.

If the tuition freeze goes through, students from Maryland entering St. Mary’s College next year as freshmen would pay the same $12,245 annual tuition throughout college.

“This is what we’ve been asking for,” Tom Botzman, vice president of business and finance, said.

The college board of trustees meets this weekend in Annapolis; a vote on tuition and other expenses for next year’s students is on the agenda.

“We’re going to vote for a 4 percent increase, and if that bill passes, we’ll rescind the vote” later this spring, Urgo said.

Botzman said the trustees are also slated to vote on a 3 percent increase to room rates and a 2 percent increase for food plans.

The tuition freeze, if approved by the General Assembly, would only apply to in-state students, Botzman said.

Bohanan’s bill and a companion bill introduced by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) also include state funding to expand St. Mary’s College’s DeSousa-Brent Scholars program.

The program currently directs resources such as mentors, study services and summer enrichment opportunities to a group of 30 freshmen each year, said Sybol Anderson, associate professor of philosophy and director of the program. Students are selected because they are considered underrepresented at the college, based on factors such as first-generation college status, income, ethnicity, disability and geography.

The college would like to expand that program, increasing the number of students to about 50 per graduating class and offering support to them all four years of college.

The funding would be phased in starting this fall, and would ultimately provide St. Mary’s $800,000 per year (about $4,000 per student). The funding would continue if the group of students starting college in 2015 in the DeSousa-Brent program meet certain retention and graduation rates each year, including a 70 percent four-year graduation rate. Money would be used to pay for mentors and other support.

Urgo said the performance-based funding is a new concept for a higher education program like the DeSousa-Brent Scholars. He said if the program continues to be successful, it could be used as a model for other colleges and universities.