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UMBC faces difficult choices in wake of budget constraints

Tuition increase expected, salary increases for faculty and staff put on hold

UMBC administrators are working to prepare the campus for impending cuts in state funding. In doing so, however, they face difficult decisions in mitigating the financial impact.

    As a result of ongoing and possible future budget reductions, UMBC will implement a tuition increase for the fall 2015–spring 2016 academic year. This increase would arise due to necessary cost-reducing measures for both UMBC and the University System of Maryland (USM) as a whole.

According to Lynne Schaefer, vice-president of administration and finance, tuition might possibly increase by 5 percent next year, in response to previous USM funding reductions under former Governor Martin O’Malley. UMBC administrators had proposed the 5 percent increase before Larry Hogan submitted his budget proposal for fiscal year 2016.

UMBC must reduce its total spending by $3.6 million by July 30 to contribute to a $40.3 million reduction in overall funding to the USM for the fiscal year 2015. Those budget cuts to USM were mandated by O’Malley and members of Maryland’s Board of Public Works to help address the state budget deficit, estimated at $450 million.

Additionally, UMBC must contend with the possibility of a reduction in USM funding for the fiscal year 2016. This would mean another reduction in state funding for UMBC for the fiscal year 2016, which is expected to begin July 1.

“Governor Larry Hogan had recommended a 2 percent reduction in state funding for the USM in his proposed state budget before the Maryland General Assembly,” said Schaefer. “We will have a better sense of what the actual reduction in USM funding for 2016 will be in mid-April, when the General Assembly ends its session.”

Schaefer stated that school administrators “are developing contingencies” for the possibility of a $3.5-4 million reduction for UMBC for the fiscal year 2016. “As we consider how to address the possible reduction, we are looking at many different strategies,” Schaefer said.

The Student Government Association (SGA) may take an active role in determining the

final extent of the tuition increase for the fiscal year 2016. They may advocate to keep the final tuition increase to within a relatively low range. Schaefer said that “we are talking with student leaders about any possible tuition increase, and we intend to continue that dialogue.”

A number of known cost reductions included in the the fiscal 2016 plan would also further impact UMBC faculty and staff members through rescinded salary increases.

A 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment increase and a 2.5 percent merit increase in faculty and staff members’ salaries has been removed from the fiscal year 2016 plan by Hogan. Those increases had previously been included in the fiscal year 2015 plan under O’Malley.

At the same time, Schaefer said that the school is not considering implementing furloughs upon staff. “We understand the hardship that the removal of merit and cost-of-living increases will have upon faculty and staff,” she said. “We would not consider adding furloughs on top of that.”

USM officials are also working to negotiate the proposed cuts to state funding for the fiscal year 2016. They are engaged in discussions with Hogan and the General Assembly. UMBC will also appeal to the Maryland House of Delegates’ and Senate’s Education Budget Subcommittees later this month.

“We will be talking about the good things happening at UMBC and making the case for continued support,” said Schaefer. “We recognize that as part of the state, we have a role to play in addressing the current shortfall. At the same time, we will do the best that we can and hope that they recognize the role that we play in building the state economy and workforce.”