Donald Fry: O’Malley deserves better grade for affordable college in Maryland

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By Donald C. Fry

One of the more curious outcomes of a recent Washington Post poll measuring Marylanders’ opinions of Governor Martin O’Malley’s job performance has to be the score that statewide constituents gave the governor for making college education more affordable.

Fifty percent of 1,156 Marylanders phoned by pollsters in February rated the governor’s performance “not so good” or “poor” for making college education more affordable, while only 40 percent rated his performance “good” or “excellent.”

Frankly, I’m guessing that most of the 578 respondents who gave the governor low grades on this issue don’t have college-bound kids. If they did, they’d know better.

Keeping college tuition costs down has been a top priority for the governor, as it is for Maryland business leaders who consider workforce development a core prerequisite for business competitiveness.

A look at tuition data for Maryland and elsewhere confirms that Governor O’Malley has followed through on his pledged commitment to affordable college. When he took office in 2007, the governor froze tuitions during the first three years of his administration and has limited annual tuition increases to no more than 3 percent since.

The result has been that the University System of Maryland’s ranking for tuition improved from 8th highest in the nation in 2007 to 27th today.

The contrast is even more dramatic when comparing Maryland’s tuitions and fees for in-state students at public universities to those in adjacent competing states. Since 2007, tuition and fees at public colleges in Maryland have increased only 2 percent, compared to 29 percent, 27 percent and 14 percent respectively in Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, according to state data.

Maryland’s progress is further validated by data published on the widely-used online resource: The average in-state annual tuition and fees for all public four-year colleges in Maryland are at least 13 percent less than in-state tuition and fees at public colleges in Virginia and Delaware, and 31 percent less than in Pennsylvania.

Among flagship universities, the University of Maryland College Park’s combined annual tuition and fees for in-state students are at least 20 percent less than in-state tuition and fees at the University of Delaware and at the University of Virginia’s main campus, and they are 45 percent less than what in-state students pay at Penn State’s main campus.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. When it comes to promoting affordable college education, especially during challenging financial times for working families, Governor O’Malley has been a national leader. He deserves high grades for his accomplishment on this issue.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland.

Recent Center Maryland columns by Donald C. Fry:

Hire One Youth: connecting Baltimore’s youth with private-sector opportunity

Maryland’s transportation funding crisis is real, not contrived

Unmet county priority lists frame the need for transportation funding bill

CEOs are talking about Maryland’s competitiveness

Lessons from the port’s record year

Latest business climate rankings for Maryland range from 5th to 41st
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Donald C. Fry has been the president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), the central Maryland region's most prominent organization of business and civic leaders, since November 2002.

Under Don’s leadership, the GBC is recognized as a knowledgeable and highly credible business voice in the Baltimore region, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. on policy issues and competitive challenges facing Maryland. Its mission is to apply private-sector leadership to strengthening the business climate and quality of life in the region and state.

Fry served as GBC executive vice president from 1999 to 2002. From 1980 to 1999 Fry was engaged in a private law practice in Harford County. During this time he also served in the Maryland General Assembly. He is one of only a handful of legislators to have served on each of the major budget committees of the General Assembly.

Serving in the Senate of Maryland from 1997 to 1998, Fry was a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee. As a member of the House of Delegates from 1991 to 1997 Fry served on the Ways and Means Committee and on the Appropriations Committee.

Fry is a 1979 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law. He earned a B.S. in political science from Frostburg State College.