The University System of Maryland Board of Regents voted unanimously on Wednesday to increase tuition and dormitory fees for the 2021-2022 academic year, following a freeze on tuition and fees this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In-state tuition will not increase by more than 2% and out-of-state tuition will not increase by more than 5%.
Towson University, the University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park will see the highest increase in tuition rates, to the maximum rates.
Other campuses that will increase in-state tuition by 2% are: Bowie State, Coppin State, Frostburg, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Salisbury University.
The university system has seen substantial financial losses during the pandemic, the result of additional costs for personal protective equipment, COVID-19 testing and other safety measures, as well as lower enrollment and fewer on-campus events to bring in revenue, Chancellor Jay A. Perman said during a board meeting Wednesday afternoon.
The increase in revenue from higher tuition and mandatory fees — an estimated $37 million — will help fund technology upgrades, mental health services and scholarship funding. Without an increase, some campuses may have to cut course offerings, freeze hiring or cut faculty and staff, Perman said.
“This is a reasonable increase, keeping us competitive in our education product with our peer institutions,” Perman said. “Even with this increase, the system remains a very good value for the money. Our tuition prices, and soon debt levels, remain below national averages.”
After freezing room and board rates this year, some USM campuses will also raise dormitory costs in the 2021-2022 academic year. Extra pandemic-related cleaning costs and increases in minimum wage and food costs make the higher rates necessary, said Gary L. Attman, treasurer of the Board of Regents.
Coppin State University has the highest room and board rate increase of 5%, while the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s dormitory fees will remain the same. The university system is expected to see an increase of $15.2 million in revenue from increased room and board fees.
Although the university system received nearly $450 million in federal stimulus funding, Perman described it as “one-time money” and not enough to cover the budget gap, which is up to half-a-billion dollars. Universities cannot hire faculty and staff, offer multi-year financial aid programs or develop strong research opportunities with “one-time money,” he said.
The increases in tuition and fees were decided in consultation with elected officials in the General Assembly and the governor’s office, Regents Chair Linda R. Gooden said.
Regent Louis Pope said that the board should have been able “to tighten our belts and make some permanent reductions” like most businesses and families have been forced to do in the last year. “I think we’ve all learned that we can do with less,” Pope said. Perhaps some institutions could get by with less staff or fewer classes, as Zoom has become a way of life, he said.
“I do think that we have to be good principal stewards,” Pope said, adding that his priority when he first joined the board was to keep tuition down, especially as the father of five children.
However, multiple regents argued that increasing costs is critical to maintain high-quality services and to remain competitive against other public state universities.
Perman said the university system has made progress in access and affordability since the early 2000s. Maryland public higher education institutions used to be the fifth most expensive in the country in 2004, but now rank 26th, making them more affordable than peer institutions in Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia, he said.
“After every calamity there’s going to be a flight to quality,” Regent Robert Neall said. “People are starting to see the value of our university system and how good it is, and I want to be able to accommodate every Maryland family who feels like their child wants to go to one of our systems’ schools — that is something you can’t do on the cheap either.”