Dealing with a Tuition Freeze

Tuition freezes don’t work. The College Guide has suggested this for awhile. Some policymakers are finally coming around. John Wagner reports in the Washington Post that former Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. doesn’t support Maryland’s four-year freeze on public university tuition. Wagner writes:

“The freeze hurt higher education,” Ehrlich said during an hourlong appearance on “Midday” on Baltimore’s WYPR radio.

Ehrlich, who is running again this year, told host Dan Rodricks that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) [who supported the freeze] “was guilty of demagoguing on this issue.” Ehrlich said that at the time he left office in 2007, tuition rates at University System of Maryland campuses were “the best deals in the world.”

Critics contend that tuition freezes, while often politically popular, make it difficult for schools to raise enough revenue and, by postponing planned budget decisions, later result in huge tuition spikes.

Tuition at Maryland state schools rose steadily (30 percent over four years) during Ehrlich’s term as governor of the Old Line State, from 2003 to 2007. O’Malley, who followed Ehrlich as governor, froze tuition in 2007. His campaign manager, Tom Russell, objected to Ehrlich’s support for tuition hikes: “I suppose massive increases in tuition will be a part of Mr. Ehrlich’s platform in this campaign, just as it was a defining characteristic of his one failed term as governor.”

As part of his effort to close a $2 billion deficit, O’Malley’s 2011 budget included a 3 percent tuition increase.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer