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Lawmaker proposes Maryland tuition cap

Maryland state Senator Jim Rosapepe (D-College Park) has introduced legislation that would tie undergraduate tuition increases to median family income in the state, potentially ending an era of seesawing prices.

When it comes to tuition, Maryland public students don't have much to complain about. State tuition has been frozen for four consecutive years, a span in which every other state has hiked college tuition at least once.

The freeze repositioned Maryland in the middle of the college affordability pack. The state's overall rank in average tuition dropped from eighth in 2005-06 to 17th in 2009-10, according to the College Board's annual report, "Trends in College Pricing." Average tuition was lower in Virginia when Maryland's freeze began; now it is higher.

In the first half of the decade, before the freeze, tuition had risen 40 percent at some Maryland campuses, a spike that placed the state's public universities among the priciest in the nation.

Rosapepe's bill, co-sponsored by 22 other state senators, would cap undergraduate tuition increases to match a three-year rolling average of increases in Maryland median family income.

It also would require the governor to increase operating funds for state universities so that by 2021, funding per student would rank in the 75th percentile among a cohort of "comparable institutions in competitor states." And in-state tuition would be set at or below the 50th percentile of tuition and fees at those institutions.

Maryland appropriated $8,100 per student for higher education in fiscal year 2009, compared with a national average of $7,220, according to the latest annual report of State Higher Education Executive Officers.

The bill's prospects? It has lots of support, but funding it could prove expensive, and money is short.

"A majority of members of the legislature get it. So that's the good news," Rosapepe said in an interview. "The bad news is, we're in the middle of a recession."

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By Daniel de Vise  |  March 23, 2010; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  Access , Finance , Public policy , Publics  | Tags: higher education finance, public policy, tuition and fees  
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