UMS Targets Student Debt with Plan to Cover All Tuition and Fees for Pell-Eligible Maine Students at Four Campuses
Federal, State, and Institutional Grants will completely offset tuition and standard fees for eligible new Maine students enrolling next year at the Universities of Maine at Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Augusta, and Machias
ORONO, MAINE — The University of Maine System announced today that, starting in Fall 2018, first-year Maine students who qualify for a federal Pell grant as part of their financial aid award will be able to attend the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Augusta, and Machias without paying out-of-pocket for tuition and standard fees. The initiative seeks to build on the enrollment growth system campuses have already achieved in Orono, Farmington, and in Southern Maine.
The innovative aid packaging, initiated by the leadership team at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, leverages growing investments in institutional aid with existing federal and state resources to cover all tuition and fee costs for Pell recipients who commit to taking at least 30 credits per year and maintaining a 2.0 GPA. The program is expected to improve retention and reduce both student debt and time to degree completion, opening new and more affordable pathways to a Maine degree and career.
The University of Maine System recently joined with education and workforce partners to launch MaineSpark, a collaborative effort to credential and position 60% of Mainers for success by 2025.
“Finding a way to offset the cost of tuition and fees for moderate and medium income families aligns perfectly with our institutional commitment to provide Maine students with a high value, career-focused education,” said Raymond Rice, President of the University of Maine at Presque Isle. “We are focused on offering Maine students a world-class education that is closely connected to existing and emerging opportunities in our state.
“As a top-ranked regional college in the North for graduates with the least amount of debt, we have a long-established commitment to affordability for our students. This effort reaffirms our work to ensure that student loan debt does not prevent students from staying in Maine to take a job in their hometowns after they graduate.”
Students who graduated from UMPI in four years or less borrowed $18,451, on average, compared to an average indebtedness of $32,675 for students who complete their degree work in more than five years. Reducing indebtedness by more than $14,000 through four-year completion initiatives improves the purchasing power and home-buying capacity of graduates as they enter the Maine workforce. UMPI’s Finish-in-Four Program is designed to provide students and parents with the information and support needed to progress quickly and affordably to a degree.
Making the commitment to cover tuition and standard fees and reduce debt for eligible students is made possible because of the work Maine and its public universities have done to close the gap between college costs and available aid resources.
Grant aid available at Maine’s public universities has been growing as the savings realized from the System’s One University Initiative created opportunities for strategic investment in academic programming and student success. The spending plan for the current academic year increased institutional aid by $8 million. This 11.6% increase in campus-based aid is the largest increase in financial aid in the System’s history. The Maine State Grant Program, funded by the Legislature, was also increased in 2015 to address higher education affordability and student loan debt.
The investments in available grant resources occurred simultaneously with the University of Maine System’s six-year tuition freeze. The System’s nation-leading commitment to affordability, which spanned 2012-2017, reduced the inflation-adjusted cost of a Maine public higher education.
“Completely covering tuition and standard fees for qualifying Pell-eligible students is possible now at our campuses with the lowest tuition rates,” said James H. Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System. “I applaud UMPI President Ray Rice for catalyzing the program for our collective consideration.
“In the spirit of our One University Initiative, three of his fellow presidents are collaborating with him to expand the program across the State. In time, we hope new resources can be leveraged to expand the program to other System universities and to even more Maine residents.”
“The demographic deck is stacked against us in Maine, so we must think differently and act decisively to overcome the wave of retirements facing our industries and communities while students continue to struggle to afford the college degree many of those positions will require,” said Jim Erwin, Chair of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. “These campus programs represent exactly the kind of focus we need on innovation, debt reduction, and workforce to achieve two of our highest priorities: student success and economic development.
“On behalf of the Board and the state we serve, I want to express appreciation and acknowledgement to President Rice and his leadership team at the University of Maine at Presque Isle, as well as his peers at Fort Kent, Augusta, and Machias, for carrying this initiative forward.”
Specific guidelines and eligibility for participation in the Pell tuition and standard fees programs may vary by campus, though generally students will be required to complete at least 30 credits each calendar year and maintain a 2.0 GPA. Student loans, work study, and other forms of aid may also be available for students to help with room and board, books, and the other costs associated with college attendance. Applicants who do not qualify for a Pell grant may still be eligible for institutional aid as well as scholarships and student loans based on estimated family need and contributions. Every Maine resident who is considering college in the Fall of 2018 should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible to determine what levels of aid are available.
Fifty-one percent of Maine students who completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the academic year 2016-2017 met the initial eligibility guidelines for a federal pell grant according to the Finance Authority of Maine.
First year and overall enrollments at the University of Maine, the University of Maine at Farmington, and the University of Southern Maine have been growing as the institutions have expanded access, improved their competitive standing, and invested millions in institutional aid resources to better meet demonstrated financial need. These investments in aid resources are part of a strategic effort to keep high-performing high school graduates from leaving Maine to accept competitively packaged financial aid offers from out-of-state institutions.
At the University of Maine at Farmington, for example, 91 percent of students receive some form of grant aid that does not require repayment. The institution is able to meet nearly 90 percent of all demonstrated need for UMF students who apply for assistance. UMF is also launching a peer-to-peer financial literacy program that will be expanded to all system campuses to help students make better financial decisions about paying for and completing their college degrees.
“Covering tuition and fees for eligible students attending our Machias campus starting next year will improve access and attainment while building a stronger workforce in the Downeast Region.” said University of Maine President Susan J. Hunter, who as of July 1 presides over the Machias campus as well. “At our flagship campus in Orono we will continue to invest in financial aid to meet identified student need and to deploy resources that help keep high achieving Maine high school graduates here at home. I know our colleagues at the University of Maine at Farmington and the University of Southern Maine have similar priorities and share our commitment to helping Maine families send their sons and daughters to a Maine university.”
“Financial aid is an investment in our students, their success, and Maine’s future,” said Nancy Griffin, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at the University of Southern Maine. “At USM we are investing an additional $3.1 million in additional financial aid this year and we have grown institutional aid resources by $12 million over five years. We are also working with our funding and foundation partners to raise $15 million to fund a Promise Scholars Initiative to help disadvantaged youth.
“Personal commitment and investment will always be a part of a successful college experience, but we are working toward the day when student need is not an obstacle to opportunity.”
University leaders will be closely monitoring the impacts of the new tuition and fees programs on applications and enrollment, persistence, degree completion, debt load, and onboarding into the Maine workforce. Campus leaders, university stakeholders, and Maine’s political leaders will receive updates and be engaged in conversation about how the program is reducing student debt loads and addressing the state’s workforce needs.
The future of the programs will be highly dependent on the continued availability of existing federal and state resources, new investments, and the overall performance of the programs. For more Information: