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The St. Mary’s College of Maryland board of trustees approved a 4 percent increase in tuition, with the expectation that they would rescind it later this spring if state legislation authorizing a tuition freeze is approved.

The tuition increase would amount to about $500 more per student per year, for a total of $12,735 next academic year for Maryland students.

Room and board prices will increase next year, too, making the total annual cost for an in-state student $26,769, including tuition, fees, room and board.

That price tag would be reduced slightly if a Maryland General Assembly bill calling for a five-year tuition freeze were 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 for students who are Maryland residents. In exchange, the state would give funding increases equivalent to a 4 percent tuition hike (or about $800,000) each year.

Bohanan, who chairs the education and economic development subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, could not be reached by deadline.

Urgo said there is increased funding for higher education included in the governor’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2014. The college president and several of the college’s trustees at Saturday’s meeting in Annapolis said they have high hopes of passage for Bohanan’s bill and a companion bill introduced by Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery).

Urgo said people have come to recognize that a 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 current $12,245 annual tuition throughout college. The freeze would only apply to students from Maryland.

In recent years, some members of the state legislature criticized the college for its high tuition. Tuition at the University of Maryland, College Park this year is $7,175, about $5,000 less than St. Mary’s College.

“We can’t just price ourselves out” of being affordable to many students, trustee vice chair Gail Harmon said, adding that the college also needs to think about the high costs to students who attend St. Mary’s from other states, for whom tuition rates will be $26,045 next year.

In addition to the 4 percent tuition hike, the trustees last weekend voted for a 3 percent increase to room rates, which will now start at $6,575 per academic year, and a 2 percent increase for food plans (the average cost will be $4,860 per academic year). Room and board rates would not be affected by the tuition freeze.

Student trustee Alex Walls said the five-year tuition freeze, if approved, would give the trustees time to work on a more sustainable way to fund the public liberal arts college.

Sophomore NaQuesha Booker of Washington, D.C., said that the financial strain on her and her mother from the continued hikes in tuition make her question whether she can continue to afford to attend St. Mary’s. Those worries can affect a student’s studies, she said.

Andrew Wilhelm, freshman class president, said many students are paying for their higher education themselves by taking out loans, and that the continued cost increases make it hard to stay in college.

“I hope the board will keep these students in mind as they make a decision,” he said.

jyeatman@somdnews.com