Recent budget cuts for the University System of Maryland have put a financial strain on University of Maryland students and faculty, even with partial restoration of the cut funds.
Since the 2008 recession, economic recovery has been slow and uneven, according to Cindy Clement, director of undergraduate studies in the UMD Economics department. UMD's funding depends on how much money the state government can allocate to public universities in the state. An unstable economy does not bode well for UMD's future.
With this and next year's forecasted deficit, the university's budget has been cut drastically – the University System of Maryland had to give back about $40 million last January, though the General Assembly restored about $16 million when it met in April.
Though the cuts have been severe, the restorations will help the university end furloughs and lift the hiring freeze this summer, according to an email sent by President Wallace Loh to the UMD community. However, he said that all hiring and spending must be monitored carefully.
“In this session, Governor Hogan and the General Assembly…showed their commitment to higher education," Loh wrote in the email. “Their actions represent progress in a year when state revenues have yet to rebound fully and money remains tight."
Academic departments are seeing a direct effect on their programs because of the cuts. The economics department is relying more heavily on adjunct professors and graduate students because they are not allowed to hire any tenure-track faculty for the time being.
However, department leaders are working to ensure that UMD students don't suffer because of the funding cuts. Clement hired a non-tenure full-time instructor to fill a gap in the department and ensure that the program maintains its reputation of high quality instruction.
“I'm still doing what's necessary for my students, but it's not as good of a quality experience as we would like to have," Clement said. “This year and next year, we're seeing some impact. It's not huge, it's probably the best possible outcome. But it also makes me sad."
Students have reacted differently to the budget constraints. One of the most direct effects on students was the mid-year 2 percent tuition increase, designed to offset budget cuts, which took effect this semester.
"The tuition rise really bothered me because it was totally unprecedented," sophomore Business major Meredith Soule said. “But at the same time, it's a reminder that the economy isn't completely healed yet, and that jobs will still be hard to find in a couple of years. But it just makes me more comfortable, knowing I have that cushion of a good degree to help me when I graduate."