This is the second of three stories on state pay.
By Margaret Sessa-Hawkins
Full-time professors at Maryland public universities earn a salary roughly $16,500 above the national average, but tuition at Maryland public universities has remained lower than the national average, according to data from the American Association of University Professors.
Data from the Maryland Higher Education Commission — the statewide board responsible for establishing policies for Maryland’s public and private colleges — reveals that full-time faculty for Maryland’s public universities have an annual salary of, on average, $105,140. Comparatively, the national average for full-time professors at public universities was $88,648. Full-time professors at private schools were paid $108,653 a year on average.
This pay rate has meant that for the past few years university staff have topped the payroll of Maryland state employees. This year, the top 220 spots on the state payroll were occupied by university employees, and Maryland public university employees made up 70% of the total number of state employees earning over $100,000.
Cost of living higher
“We’re living in a market where the cost of living is a little higher than the national average,” Greg FitzGerald, chief of staff for the Maryland Higher Education Commission said. “When we look at our competitor states, we want to be able to recruit the best faculty. Additionally, the schools bring in a lot of research dollars, which for certain professors is built into their salary. Combine all those factors and it’s not surprising we’d be above the national average.”
However, even though faculty at Maryland public universities earn a salary considerably above those of their counterparts, students attending Maryland public universities pay tuition fees that are on par with national averages. The average cost of tuition for an in-state resident at a Maryland public school is $8,073. This is slightly below the national average of $8,893. Even the average out-of-state tuition, at $18,761, falls below the national average of $22,203.
“We do as much as we can to keep our costs reasonable,” said Robert Platky, assistant vice president and director of Budget & Fiscal Analysis at the University of Maryland. “We have a fairly lean organization in terms of the number of folks that we pile up who have to be paid from that same pool as those teachers are being paid.”
This year, the University of Maryland, College Park, the state’s flagship school, ranked seventh in Kiplinger’s list of best value public colleges. Additionally, since fiscal 2007, spending per degree has declined by around $3,000.
“Balancing affordability and quality is our main goal,” Platky said. “We’ve worked very hard for it, and been very successful at it.”
Keeping tuition down
They have been joined in this initiative by the governor and Maryland state legislature. Almost a decade ago, in 2005, Maryland had the seventh-highest public tuition fees in the nation. To respond to this the state froze tuition from 2007 to 2010, and since 2011 has reduced the rate of gorwth in tuitions at most of Maryland’s public universities. As a result, Maryland public schools now rank 27th for tuition prices in the country, according to the Maryland Department of Legislative Services.
Sen. Joe Getty, a member of the Education, Business and Administration Subcommittee of Budget and Taxation, said that helping constituents have access to a quality education is a priority for every legislator.
“We want to keep tuition increases down so that you don’t overprice a college education to the point where average families in Maryland can’t afford them,” Getty said.
Even with the tuition freezes, Maryland state spending on universities has remained in line with its neighbors. According to a study from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Maryland is ranked 12th in the nation for total state spending on higher education. In these rankings Maryland falls just behind neighbors Virginia and Pennsylvania — both also home to prestigious public schools. However, Maryland still funds proportionally more of its public school budgets than either Virginia or Pennsylvania do.
Struggling with affordability
Despite this, Maryland students, like students nationally, still struggle with affording college. In 2012 in Maryland 58% of students graduated in debt, while nationally, 70% did. In Maryland, the average amount of debt per student was $25,951, while nationally it was $30,000. For students attending public university in Maryland, the amount of loans taken out exceeded their tuition fees, while students attending private universities tended to take out sufficient loans to cover roughly half their tuition, indicating they were paying for the other half out of pocket. Roughly 58% of Maryland students’ financial need went unmet by any financial aid or loan in 2012.
However, FitzGerald says that in his time with MHEC, he has seen how much of a political priority university affordability has become, and he anticipates it will continue to be an important objective in the future.
“We’ve had a great history of having a tuition freeze under [Governor Martin] O’Malley, capping tuition at a 3% growth rate,” FitzGerald said. “There’s a lot of emphasis among those in government on maintaining affordability. It’s a policy priority for agencies. It’s a policy priority for the current governor, and given that the gubernatorial candidates have released plans for affordability, it will hopefully be a policy priority for the next governor as well.”
Related Stories from previous years
Related Stories from previous years
– See more at: http://marylandreporter.com/2014/05/13/state-employees-making-100k-jumped-20-to-6847-last-year/#sthash.taHcdxS0.dpuf