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Real Cost of Public Higher Education in Maine Declines Again

Maine is one of just three states to achieve an inflation-adjusted reduction in
cost of public higher education because of historic six-year instate tuition freeze.

 Orono, Maine – The real cost of four-year public higher education in Maine has declined again, falling 3% over five years according to the new College Board Report, Trends in Pricing 2016Maine is among only three states to achieve a decline in the 2016 look at five-year trends in college pricing while the national average, inflation-adjusted cost of attending a public, four-year university has increased by 9% over the same period.

Improvements in affordability and access contributed to a 1.6% increase in enrollment in the Fall of 2016, the first fall semester enrollment growth in 13 years at Maine’s public universities.

“Our public universities are working as one and with business and community partners across the state to build the capacity needed to address Maine’s workforce and demographic challenges,” said James H. Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System.   “Our commitment to affordability and our work to expand access into more of our communities are increasing enrollments and putting more Mainers on a path to a college degree.”

The inflation-adjusted reduction in the cost of attending Maine’s public universities results from an instate tuition freeze that entered into a historic sixth year with the 2016-2017 academic year.  Maine Governor Paul LePage pledged to include $4.65 million in an FY 2017 Supplemental Budget that will come before the 128th Legislature to help Maine’s universities maintain the tuition freeze through the current academic year.

In the 2015 Trends in Pricing Report Maine was the only state to achieve a five-year reduction in inflation-adjusted tuition and fees, posting a 2 percent decline.   With an 8% decline Washington State vaulted into the top spot in the 2016 College Board findings.  Washington State’s advancement on affordability follows a decision by the Washington State Legislature to increase support for higher education by nearly $200 million to offset tuition cuts of 15 to 20% at the Evergreen State’s public universities in the 2016-17 academic year.

State support for public higher education in Maine has increased slowly back to 2008 funding levels after being cut by more than $10 million as part of spending reductions triggered by the Great Recession.  The allocation to Maine’s universities increased to $204 million in FY 17 after peaking at $199.4 million in FY 2008.