A Martin O’Malley advertisement came on our D.C. TV the other night. It was easy to shrug off the ad as more political double-talk.
Except this time it was an issue that mattered to me: the tuition freeze at Maryland’s state universities. And though the freeze has since thawed, this is an issue that means a lot to me and my friends, especially those with a stake in O’Malley’s gubernatorial race against Republican Robert Ehrlich, former governor of Maryland.
When I entered the University of Maryland as an out-of-state student, my annual costs were somewhere around $20,000 a year. Just months into my education, Ehrlich was elected as governor in 2002. Despite grousing I heard, I did not yet understand how this would affect both me and my parents. I’m from Maine, man! What does this election have to do with me? It turns out, a lot. To the tune of well over $20,000.
I chose Maryland for my education, among a myriad of other reasons, because as my dad said, it was “cheap.” It’s all relative; it was still expensive but a much better value than almost any other school. When I graduated in 2006, my total annual costs as an out-of-stater now hovered around $30,000.
Though Ehrlich likes to characterize it differently, under his watch tuition was raised by huge percentages each year. Here’s what his spokesman, Andy Barth told The Diamondback.
“The regents set tuition, and they raised it,” said Andy Barth, Ehrlich’s spokesman. “They raised it because their choice was to cut programs or to raise tuition.”
Characterize it however you want, but my family and others, many of which I’m sure felt the tuition increases under the Ehrlich administration more acutely than we did, are thousands of dollars poorer as a result of what went on.
As an impressionable teen and later as a young adult, not much separated O’Malley and Ehrlich in my mind. They both supported the ICC and they both pander to Baltimore. What’s the difference? (Well, there is another, but we’ll get to that in the future).
But one man’s administration saw massive tuition increases at one of the country’s best large public university, and another man’s did his best to slow down those costs.
Who do you want leading one of America’s wealthiest, most diverse and best-educated states?
First of two articles on the Maryland governors race and its big issues.