A state Senate subcommittee Friday approved over $80 million in total cuts from the governor's proposed budget, including $6.8 million in cuts to the University System of Maryland, which includes the state's 13 universities and research institutions.
- More than $10.5 million of the system's unrestricted funds will be held until each institution can prove its student enrollment is growing at a healthy rate. Institutions that meet their goals will be given their portion of this money, and those that don't might see some of their money go elsewhere in the system.
- Nearly $6.8 million in unrestricted funds will be cut from the system budget, and the cuts must be distributed fairly among all the system institutions. The system will be required to spend at least 4 percent more on each student than it did last year.
- $15 million will be cut from the system's allotment of general fund money. In its place, the system will be allowed to take $15 million from the Higher Education Investment Fund, created last year to set money aside for higher education and supplement state funding when needed.
State officials expect that there will be nearly $15.4 million in the HEIF at the end of this fiscal year, so the subcommittee effectively voted to drain the savings account. When Gov. Martin O'Malley released his budget in January, he proposed using HEIF money to freeze tuition next year and possibly the following year, as well. So even if the General Assembly adequately funds the system this year, next year's safety net is gone.But if that HEIF spending plan falls by the wayside, and O'Malley approves the cut, it will be proof that the first rule does apply, and that most Democrats are just as conservative as Republicans since the Regan era.
Madaleno said spending the HEIF money now rather than saving it for later makes sense in the long run. He noted the importance of "keeping higher education off the funding roller coaster" it has been on for about a decade. He said if the state moderates spending during good economic times, cuts when money is scarce won't seem so severe.