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State budget cuts target aid for Md. private college students

Middle Hall at Washington College in Maryland. (Washington College photo)

Middle Hall at Washington College, which would lose $135,000 of state funding under the governor’s plan. (Washington College photo)

Grants to Maryland’s private colleges and universities will be cut by $2.1 million as part of $67.2 million in budget cuts announced by the state Thursday, forcing the schools to find money to replace grants promised to students.

The $2.1 million comes from half of a $4.2 million increase to the state’s Sellinger Program that was set to take place this year.

“The vast majority of Sellinger funds are used to provide financial aid to Maryland residents,” said Tina Bjarekull, president of the Maryland Independent College and University Association. “At this point, these funds have been committed to students, and these commitments will be honored. So the institutions will be forced to make other cuts to their operating budgets.”

Approximately 90 percent of the program’s $46.8 million appropriation pays for grants to Maryland residents attending Maryland private schools. The money goes to the colleges, which then redistribute it to students.

At Washington College, the school will lose around $135,000 and have to tap a contingency fund to cover the grants committed to students.

“We are always grateful for the state’s support of private colleges, which educate students at a lower cost to the state than a public university education,” said Washington College President Kurt Landgraf, in a statement. “While the timing and amount of the cut is not ideal, we are committed to the financial aid pledged to students, and we have a contingency line in the budget that is designed to deal with events like this.”

The Sellinger Program, named after a former president of Loyola University, has been in existence for more than 40 years. The funds come from an automatic formula tied to enrollment and appropriations to some four-year colleges.

The cuts also target $8 million from the University System of Maryland.

Across the system’s campuses, funding for 30 vacant positions was cut, essentially freezing new hiring for those jobs. That will save the state $4.9 million.

The remainder will be saved through reduced funding for facility renewal and other operating expenses.

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