UMaine System trustees approve flat tuition for in-state students

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Jun. 25—The University of Maine System Board of Trustees approved a $578 million budget Friday that includes no tuition increase for in-state students.

The budget was approved unanimously and comes after the system made revisions due to an expected increase in state funding and strong first-year enrollment deposits. A supplemental budget proposal from Gov. Janet Mills being considered by the Legislature would increase state funding to the UMaine System by 3 percent, or about $6 million.

"Our students come first at Maine's public universities," said Chancellor Dannel Malloy in a statement after the vote. "Holding the line on tuition makes our life-changing degrees more affordable and accessible, and allows our students to earn their degrees with less debt.

"The strong support of Gov. Mills and the Legislature is making it possible for us to provide a more affordable return to normalcy for our Maine students. On behalf of our students, we are grateful."

The average tuition and mandatory fees for in-state students this fall will be $9,575. That doesn't include room and board, which is scheduled to increase by 2.3 percent on average, bringing the total cost of tuition, mandatory fees, room and board to $19,548 for an in-state student.

The average out-of-state tuition and fees will be $20,426 and $30,399 when room and board are included.

"This is a welcome step forward in keeping public higher education affordable for Maine students and ensuring our university system remains the best bargain for anyone looking to advance their skills, credentials and careers," Mills said in a statement.

"I am glad that the increase in my budget proposal helped the Board of Trustees to hold the line on expenses for Maine students, and I thank them, Chancellor Malloy and the UMS administration for this important work."

In addition to the extra state appropriations, the governor's budget proposal includes $20 million to increase the maximum award offered through the Maine State Grant Program from $1,500 to $2,000. The program provides need-based grants to Maine undergraduates to help with the cost of higher education.

The spending plan approved by trustees Friday represents the seventh UMaine System budget in the last 10 years to hold tuition flat for in-state students. The system is also reporting strong first-year and transfer student enrollment deposits.

At the end of May, deposits for the fall were 6 percent ahead of the pre-pandemic 2019 admissions cycle, with 5,079 commitments for first year and transfer admission.

Also included in the budget approved Friday are a pair of pilot programs at the University of Maine Orono, University of Maine at Machias and University of Southern Maine that aim to consolidate student fees and simplify the billing process. In Orono and Machias the pilot will roll some student fees into tuition, while at USM a separate program will consolidate most student fees into one comprehensive fee.

"This is not about increasing rates," Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Ryan Low told the board. "Both of these initiatives are revenue-neutral, but they make understanding bills much easier."

In a separate initiative announced earlier this month, the system is also planning on providing 600 incoming and second-year students in Orono and Machias access to tuition-free hands-on research projects during the fall semester. The Research Learning Experience is a pilot program being funded with grant money from the Harold Alfond Foundation that will provide underclassmen with one-credit immersive learning opportunities typically available to juniors and seniors.

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