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Tuition Discussed at Board of Trustees Meeting

At the General Session of the meeting of the St. Mary’s Board of Trustees on Feb. 25, sophomore Michael Killius was announced as the new Student Trustee-in-Training, and the controversial topic of the tuition raise for the 2012-2013 academic year was also discussed.

Current Student Trustee Maurielle Stewart introduced Killius, saying, “I’m sure he will represent the students well and interact with the board in [an efficient] manner.” Killius is a Nitze Scholar and Judicial Board member from St. Mary’s County.

One of the first orders of business was to approve Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the current mayor of Baltimore, as the commencement speaker for the class of 2012. The vote was unanimous.

Molly Mahoney Matthews, the Chairwoman of the Board, opened the session by saying that the “budget proposals [sought by President Joe Urgo and trustee Gary Jobson at the Maryland Senate Budget Hearing] for the College did not include the extra dollars that we feel our students deserve. Others students in Maryland public institutions have tuition brought down, and we want the same for St. Mary’s. As a consequence of not receiving the funding we wanted, we must thoughtfully review programs, remaining committed to active involvement in community.”

Urgo announced the establishment of The Joseph and Kathleen Garner Endowed Scholarship Fund, the result of a $1 million donation by alumnus Joseph Garner. The Fund “will provide tuition and supplementary co-curricular support to academically talented, financially challenged students attending St. Mary’s College, with a preference for St. Mary’s Ryken High School graduates,” according to the St. Mary’s website. “It is with profound humility that we contemplate this gift,” said Urgo, “which secures access to those with financial need and is designed to support the whole student experience.”

Urgo also lauded the success of St. Mary’s Day, in which the strategic visioning plan for the College, as well as the diversity of the campus, was discussed amongst students, faculty, and staff. “I’ve seen race and other conversations staged at different institutions,” said Urgo, “but I have never seen such an honest, insightful, and courageous production as ‘St. Mary’s Hear and Now.’”

The majority of the General Session was devoted to the discussion of how much tuition should be increased, if at all. Many trustees were reluctant to raise tuition to the suggested four percent, especially after hearing testimonies from students, faculty, and staff about the living wage issue and the constant struggle for students to pay their tuition bills.

Multiple amendments and suggestions were made by trustees that ranged from keeping tuition at a zero percent increase, raising tuition two percent for in-state students and four percent for out-of-state students, or the general four percent raise across the board.

Maryland Congressman and trustee Steny Hoyer summarized this issue by saying, “[The money to run the College] needs to come out of a pocket, but we’re running out of pockets and they’re getting pretty thin.”

Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business and Finance, explained some of the cuts that would have to happen if tuition were not increased: “The supplemental raise pool for faculty and staff would have to be cut, we would remove three additional faculty positions that were supposed to be created, we could not fund IT (Information Techonology) enhancements that are mandated by state, we would cut two housekeepers, reduce our advertising budget, and we would have another $400,000 of cuts, probably more staff.”

As the tuition was such a delicate issue, the Board agreed with trustee Gail Harmon’s motion to postpone the voting on the tuition for the 2012-2013 academic year until March 17, at which time Botzman will present the consequences and trade-offs that would result from each tuition plan that was proposed.

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