The University System of Maryland has formed a task force to examine financial aid policies at its 11 degree-granting campuses, with an eye toward making education more affordable for the neediest students.

System Chancellor William E. Kirwan on Friday named state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) to lead the 17-member task force, which has been told to submit a report by September.

The group was formed at a time of rising concerns about affordability. System officials have increased tuition rates sharply in the past two years, after a series of state budget cuts. Tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates at the flagship University of Maryland will be $7,410 in the coming academic year, up from the $5,670 price quoted before a midyear increase two years ago.

But the same concerns were afloat in fall 2002 when Kirwan announced the creation of a similar task force, that one focusing on tuition policy.

That committee was asked to take a broad look at potential solutions, including ways to balance tuition increases with more-generous financial aid. Yet the tuition task force instead came back last year with more modest recommendations, such as the need to publicize tuition increases years in advance so students can better budget their costs.

Anne Moultrie, associate vice chancellor for communications, said the new task force will build on the work of the previous one, which she said recommended more study focused specifically on financial aid.

"The system realized that financial aid in and of itself is so important in this question of accessibility and affordability," she said.

The financial aid task force will consider such issues as whether the state should shift more of its merit-based aid -- scholarships reserved for students with the best academic records -- to grants for students with great financial need. This year, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) cut funding for new recipients of a merit-aid program -- which was started under Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) -- and redirected the money to need-based financial aid programs.

Two members of the new task force sat on the previous one: Patricia S. Florestano, a member of the system Board of Regents, and Thelma B. Thompson, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Other members are David H. Buchanan, provost of Salisbury University; Dominic Cirrincione, a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; Vince Conti, a vice president at University of Maryland University College; Janice B. Doyle, assistant secretary of the Maryland Higher Education Commission; state Sen. P.J. Hogan (D-Montgomery); Angela Hovatter, director of financial aid for Frostburg State University; Richard Hug, a member of the Board of Regents; Earl H. Jenkins, a vice president at Coppin State University; Donald Kiah, an assistant vice president at Bowie State University; Barbara A. Klein, an associate vice president at University of Maryland, Baltimore; Barbara Miller, director of financial aid at the University of Baltimore; C. Daniel Mote Jr., president of the University of Maryland; Vince Pecora, director of financial aid at Towson University; and Del. James E. Proctor Jr. (D-Prince George's).

State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) is leading the task force examining financial aid policies at the University System of Maryland.