Governor’s budget includes funds for Towson enrollment growth
COLLEGE PARK ” Governor Robert L. Ehrlich’s fiscal year 2007 higher education budget, introduced Tuesday, includes funding for significant enrollment growth at Towson University and other designated growth institutions.
Ehrlich announced a $117.2 million funding increase for the University System of Maryland, a 14.5 percent increase from the year before. Before an audience of regents, presidents, faculty members, and journalists at University of Maryland College Park, Ehrlich said meeting enrollment demands ” “not just needs but demands” ” was his top higher education priority.
Students should expect a “modest” tuition increase of no more than 4.5 percent, USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan said.
As part of a system-wide “enrollment growth initiative,” Towson will receive funds for an additional 800 full-time equivalent (FTE) students. Because not every student takes a full-time course load, the enrollment increase will translate to about 1,000 additional bodies on campus in the fall of 2006.
The state will provide Towson with about $5,500 for each of the 800 additional students, exceeding the University’s request for an increase in FTE funding, President Robert Caret said. Several months ago, Towson told the university system that it was willing to grow, but only with appropriate funding. The state subsidizes a portion of each student’s education, while tuition and other funding sources make up the difference. This fall, TU received about $4,450 for each FTE, Caret said.
Because a significant increase in enrollment would create a fiscal strain on the campus, Caret asked the board to fund the new growth at the $5,000 FTE level and play catch-up with the rest of the student body, gradually increasing the subsidy so that the University would receive $5,000 for every FTE in five years.
But Tuesday’s announcement of an increase in higher education funding virtually eliminates the catch-up.
“If you take the total increase in general funds announced today and add to it the tuition revenue we expect, that total, divided by the FTE students expected in 06-07 (approximately 15,000 to 15,300) would give us over $5,000 per FTE for all students,” Caret explained. “-We thought it would take several years to get there, so we’re very pleased.”
Board of Regents chairman David Nevins, a Towson alum and an ally of Caret’s, said the growth initiative was the most important part of Ehrlich’s announcement.
“We are finally gaining the dollars to be able to grow the capacity of our public institutions in the state of Maryland,” he said. “-I think today’s budget announcement, provided the state legislature continues with its support, will guarantee that we can grow this system by thousands of new seats.”
Funds for the growth initiative, totaling $15 million, are also expected to assist Salisbury University, University of Baltimore and University of Maryland Baltimore County.
The 14.5 percent overall increase in funding was significantly higher than the 7 percent general increase and a 2 percent increase for enrollment growth that Chancellor Kirwan had publicly proposed.
“I predict that we’ll be the highest percentage increase for public higher education in the nation, and it brings the system state funding to the highest point in its history,” Kirwan said. Ehrlich also announced a $19 million increase for need-based college scholarships. His proposed budget will go to the General Assembly for approval.
Towson to enroll more undergraduates than College Park?
Towson’#39;s enrollment growth won’t end next fall. Assuming the state continues to provide adequate funding, Towson University will grow by about 1,000 students per year for several years to come, Caret said.
“Towson will grow at such a rate that the undergraduate population will be fairly comparable to College Park in five to seven years,” Nevins said.
Towson has approximately 14,400 undergraduates now; in seven years, the University could approach 20,000.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the not too distant future, there were actually more undergrads at Towson than at College Park,’#34; Nevins said.
But it’s a moving target, he added, and enrollment growth beyond the fall of 2006 is contingent on funding.