Free Tuition and Fee Attendance For 4,077 Maine Students

Grants and scholarships cover tuition and fees for 24.4% of Maine residents,  investments in financial aid reduce student debt per-credit-hour-awarded and produce a financial aid savings of $9,324 for a 4-year degree

Student leaders express support and appreciation for proposed higher education investments

Portland, Maine — Chancellor James Page and the Presidents of Maine’s public universities announced today that 4,077 Maine students are attending University of Maine System institutions this spring free of tuition and fee expense.  The number of Maine students whose tuition and fee obligations were completely covered with grant and scholarship aid represents nearly one-in-four (24.4%) of the 16,718 Maine undergraduates enrolled this semester.

Last year the financial aid offices of Maine’s public universities provided 23,948 learners with an average financial aid award of $12,096, an all-time-high across the System.  Cost of attendance can include other expenses in addition to tuition and fees. Eligibility for aid, which can include student loans, varies.

“It has always been my dream to be a veterinarian technician and I knew I wanted to go to the University of Maine at Augusta, but my family did not know how we would pay for college,” said Paige Thibodeau, a first-year Mitchell Scholar from Medford, Maine. “The Pine Tree Pledge, part of the System’s promise initiative, opened the door for me.  Without it, I would not be in college today.”

“Eleven years, as many as eight part-time jobs, some challenging obstacles, and now a cap and gown; I can’t believe I will be a college graduate in two weeks,” said Courtney Hatton, of Molunkus, Maine.  Hatton will earn her biology degree from the University of Maine on May 11 and is the recipient of the Dunham Prize.  Her future plans include medical school and a return to northern Penobscot County to work as a physician.

“I am overwhelmed by the support I have received from the university and the generosity of alumni who funded the scholarships I needed to earn my degree,” said Hatton.

Holding the Line on Tuition and Investing in Grants and Scholarships
Maine’s universities are able to provide free tuition and fee attendance for 4,077 Maine students because of the work done across the campuses and with state partners to close the gap between college costs and available aid resources. The University of Maine System is a founding partner of MaineSpark an education and workforce initiative with a common goal:  By 2025 60% of Mainers will hold education and workforce credentials that position Maine and its families for success.

40% increase in grant and scholarship aid:  University leaders are preparing to invest another $6.6 million in grant and scholarship aid for the upcoming academic year making $93.2 million available to reduce student expense and debt.  Pending Board of Trustee approval of the FY20 university budget next month, the System will have increased gift aid by 40% ($26.6 million) over five years. The Maine State Grant, which is funded by the Legislature, was also increased in 2015 to address higher education affordability and student loan debt.

Gift Aid Surpasses Loans in University Financial Aid Packages:  In the 2013-14 academic year student loans made up the majority of the aid (52%) awarded through university financial aid packages.  Grant and scholarship aid (i.e. gift aid) was 46%. Over the course of that year, the universities awarded $223 in loans for every credit hour produced and $194 in gift aid.

Today, the majority of aid awarded to students by the universities is gift aid, reducing the cost of attendance and student debt.  In the 2017-18 academic year gift aid made up 55% of the awards. Loans comprised 43% of the aid awarded. Loan awards per-credit-hour-produced have fallen 14% to $191 over five years. Gift aid per-credit-hour has increased by 24% to $240.

$9,324 in Four-Year Degree Financial Aid Savings:  The changing trends in financial aid resources and awards is producing a financial aid savings of $77.70 per-credit-hour-produced by the University of Maine System ($45.84 in gift aid increase and a $31.86 loan savings).  Over the course of a 120-credit hour degree, the financial aid savings is $9,324. Every student’s financial situation is unique and this calculation does not reflect changes in private loan activity.

Tuition and Fee Costs Increase Less Than 1% Over Five Years:  The University of Maine System froze tuition for six years and continues to cap adjustments to tuition at the rate of inflation. Factoring for inflation, in-state tuition and fees increased only 0.98% in Maine over the last five years.  Maine has one of the nation’s strongest commitments to public higher education affordability according to the College Board’s 2018 Trends in College Pricing.

The proposed FY20 university budget includes an in-state undergraduate tuition adjustment of 2.5% for most campuses based on the consumer price index.  The $6.6 million investment in new institutional grant and scholarship resources is a 7.62% increase over the FY19 budget.

“Affordability and access for Maine students have been top priorities for Chancellor Page, the campus presidents and the Board of Trustees over the last seven years,” said Trevor Hustus, of Hollis, Maine, Student Trustee to the University of Maine System Board.  “Holding the line on tuition while increasing financial aid resources by 40% are paying off for students, lowering our cost of attendance, and reducing reliance on student loans.

“As the Student Trustee on the Board, I am pleased that the university budget will add another $6.6 million to grants and scholarships. University students are grateful for the System’s commitment to affordability and appreciate the work it takes at the campuses to prioritize financial aid investments.”

The FY20 university budget currently under consideration by the Board includes a 3% increase in state appropriation proposed by Maine Governor Janet Mills in her biennial budget proposal.  The governor has also proposed investments in early college education and adult degree completion programs that are critical to expanding access to Maine learners of all ages.

“Maine’s public universities are the best institutions in the world at preparing students for what we need most — new leaders for our Maine communities and industries,” said Bentley Simpson, of Winterport, Maine, Vice President and incoming President of University of Maine Student Government. “Campus-based students, adult learners already in the workforce, and high school students will all have stronger, more affordable paths to Maine workforce opportunities because of the investments proposed by Governor Mills.  We appreciate her support for public higher education.”

“I am grateful that here in Maine we have a network of local schools, community organizations, and universities that work together to help students like me develop confidence and a career path,” said Sabrina Freeman, a first-year social work major and Promise Scholar at the University of Southern Maine from Hallowell, Maine.  She began her college career while still a student at Hall-Dale High School taking early college classes through the University of Maine at Augusta. “My high school, The Summer Camp in Washington, and USM have all been a part of my growth.”

“I want to work with underprivileged kids in Maine and help give them the same extra push and help that all children should have but do not always get,” said Freeman.  “Maine’s Early college programs and the scholarships and support that are available for students have made a big difference for me and makes me want to give back when I have that opportunity.”

“I chose Maine and the University of Maine at Presque Isle for my education because of the chance to get a world-class education at a small, rural campus committed to student success,” said Evan Zarkadas, the UMPI Student Representative to the Board of Trustees and a resident of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  “The campus commitment is shared by university and state leaders who have kept tuition under control and are making financial investments to lower the cost of attendance and reduce student debt.”

“I am a Dean’s list student on a debt-free path to a college degree and a Maine teaching career,” said Claire Hemphill, an education major at the University of Maine at Presque Isle from Fort Fairfield, Maine.  “I am the first member of my family to go to college and my parents and I are so appreciative of the support I have received. UMPI’s Free for Four commitment really appealed to us because it is possible for rural Maine students to go to college and have the opportunity to stay in our communities after graduation.”

Distributed 4/23/19