On Saturday Feb. 23, the Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition for the 2013-2014 school year by four percent with a three percent increase in room, and a two percent increase in board fees. However, the tuition hike may be rescinded in April pending state legislation authorizing an in-state tuition freeze for the next five years.
Although room and board costs will still increase, the Maryland State Legislature may pass Senate Bill 828 in April, which will freeze tuition for five years as well as increase the College’s annual block grant from the state by 800,000 dollars. The extra funds will go towards the College’s DeSousa-Brent Scholars program.
According to Botzman, if the bill is passed, it will mean that the college budget will stay the same, but that the state, not the students and their parents, will cover tuition increases. This leaves the students and parents to cover the “much more moderate” increase in room and board fees.
According to President Joe Urgo, the reason we may receive these funds is because St. Mary’s has been excluded from receiving additional funds from the state in recent years, due to an arrangement with the state which was intended to keep our funding steady.
“The governor has provided funds for a three or four year period to freeze tuition in the state, for every institution except St. Mary’s,” Urgo said. “Every other institution was given funds to keep their tuition low or flat except us. Our tuition has gone up steadily in the last five years while the rest of the state has remained either flat or at one or two percent,” he said. “I argued that what the state was doing was hurting our students, not the institution. This [bill] is making up for funds we didn’t get in the past. It’s going to help us get in our tuition more in line with the tuitions of other state schools.”
Botzman also mentioned that the passing of Senate Bill 828 would allow a redistribution of college finances, which could go towards anything from paying the gas bills in the buildings, to increased financial aid. In fact, if the Maryland State Legislature passes this tuition freeze some students who require financial aid may in fact see their overall cost of education go down. The increase in financial aid funds availability will also aim to help out-of-state students, whom the tuition freeze will not affect.
Either way, Botzman stressed the fact that the number one priority of this bill is to make post-secondary education more accessible.
In addition to the College’s administration and Board of Trustees pushing for the bill to pass, students got the opportunity to voice their opinion to both the Board and the state. On Feb. 28, SGA President Andrew Reighart, Student Trustee Alex Walls, Maryland Higher Education Commission Representative Chris Davies, sophomore Elaine Bucknam, sophomore Allura Warden, and senior Margot O’Meara went to Annapolis to lobby for lower tuition on Maryland Students Advocacy Day. According to Rieghart, the lobbying group would also aim to “raise the profile of the college in Annapolis, create a better working relationship with the University System of Maryland, and successfully lobby for our legislation.”
Though Urgo and Botzman remain confident about the passing fo the bill, as of right now, the increases are in place. For an average in-state, residence hall-dwelling student, this increase in tuition amounts to about a 500 dollar increase, or a yearly cost of 15,354 dollars.
The bill will be voted on April 9.