Last fall, I visited Bowie State University for the groundbreaking of the new Fine and Performing Arts building. While playing a game of pool at Wiseman Student Center, I enjoyed talking to students about everything from getting good grades to making friends to paying college tuition.
In 2006, when Lt. Governor Brown and I began our campaign, one of the first things we did was commit to making college more affordable for Maryland students and families. Since then, with the help of the Maryland General Assembly and the Board of Regents, Maryland has frozen in-state college tuition for four years in a row at our public colleges and universities.
We have been successful in making college more affordable for our students.
Because of the tuition freeze, our public university system is no longer ranked among the most expensive in America, but is instead among the nation's best values. Five of our public colleges and universities made Kiplinger Magazine's 2010 "Best Values in Public Colleges"- a measure not only of price but of quality.
While students in other states like California face a 32 percent increase in college tuition and students in Georgia may face a 35 percent tuition hike, we've been able to avoid steep tuition increases - even during difficult economic times - because we have made higher education, job creation and economic development a top priority for our state.
Because we know that investments made in our students and university system today will help expand Maryland's economy tomorrow, we worked with the General Assembly in 2007 to create the Higher Education Investment Fund, Maryland's first-ever dedicated revenue fund for higher education. To date, this fund has generated almost $103 million for our university system, part of our overall investment of $6.4 billion in operating support and over $1.1 billion in capital funding for higher education since fiscal year 2008.
Even with the ongoing global recession, this year my proposed budget continues to provide significant state support for the university system of Maryland that will allow the Board of Regents to seek only a modest 3 percent increase in college tuition for in-state residents.
This was not a decision that I took lightly. I know many students and families are hurting. I know that families are fighting to make ends meet - to put food on the table, to keep a roof over their heads, to find jobs, and to pay college tuition.
While not an easy decision, the 3 percent increase is both modest and responsible after a four-year tuition freeze. At a time when alternative budget proposals being discussed in Annapolis threaten to undermine the progress we have made making college more affordable and take us back to a time, advocated by some, of double-digit increases for in-state college tuition, my proposed budget protects funding for higher education and the gains we have made to make college more affordable.
During this legislative session, Lt. Governor Brown and I are working with the General Assembly to pass legislation that will build on the progress we're making in higher education, and that will prevent our families from facing such unreasonable hikes in in-state tuition.
Our work is not yet done. Maryland's greatest asset is the talents, skills, creativity, ingenuity and education of our people - and that begins with you, our student body. Our State remains one of the most educated states in the nation, consistently ranking among the top for the number of residents with college and post-graduate degrees. And as long as we continue to make tough choices to make a college education accessible to more Marylanders rather than fewer, our future leaders will have the tools they need to build a better, stronger One Maryland for generations to come.