University system officials, FSU tout affordability

Frostburg State University President Ronald Nowaczyk, left, and University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret cut the ribbon for the newly dedicated Woodward D. Pealer Performing Arts Center on Friday. The building is named for the late businessman whose $2.5 million endowment is the largest in FSU history.

FROSTBURG — Robert Caret, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, presented the fiscal year 2017 annual report to the Board of Regents on Friday during a public session held at Frostburg State University.

“I find myself very optimistic about the future of the University System of Maryland,” Caret said. “I’m proud of what we’ve achieved thus far and know that together we can achieve a great deal more.”

Officials said a top priority is keeping education costs down. In 2017, in-state undergraduate students received a modest 2 percent tuition increase, making Maryland universities more affordable than other states, Caret said. 

“USM has moved from having the sixth-highest tuition and fees in the nation all the way down to 23rd — from one of the most expensive systems to the middle of the pack,” Caret said.

FSU President Ronald Nowaczyk said affordability is the university’s best feature.

“What I think we are most proud of, and we certainly champion to parents whether they are visiting or looking at Frostburg State University, is our accomplishments in the area of affordability — which I know is on everybody’s minds these days.”

In its Student Loan Debt Ranking for 2016, LendEDU ranked FSU 113th among all four-year public colleges and universities studied in terms of lowest average student debt per borrower.

While tuition is going down, state funding is on the rise. According to officials, the 2017 Maryland General Assembly approved $1.35 billion in state support for the university system as part of a $5.3 billion fiscal 2018 operating budget — a $30.6 million increase over the adjusted 2017 level.

Following the meeting, regents helped honor former local businessman and philanthropist Woodward “Woody” Pealer by dedicating the university’s performing arts center in his name.

“Woodward Pealer, or Woody as he’s known, made significant contributions to this area throughout his life,” said Nowaczyk. “We are truly lucky to have friends like Woody and his family that recognize the importance of higher education.”

Following Pealer’s death in 2014, FSU received a $2.5 million endowment on behalf of the former Kelly-Springfield store manager, the largest donation in the university’s history.

Lee Fiedler, former Cumberland mayor and Kelly-Springfield president and CEO, said “everybody has a Woody story.”

“As I would visit (Kelly) customers all around the country, they’d say ‘oh we’re glad you’re here,’ and then they’d tell me a Woody Pealer story, and it was always a good one.”

The funds will go to student scholarships and faculty enhancement costs.

Follow staff writer Heather Wolford on Twitter @heatherbwolford.

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