Orono, Maine — The University of Maine System Board of Trustees will begin consideration today of an FY 2021 budget for Maine’s public universities that does not include any Covid-19-related tuition or fee increases. The anticipated costs of responding to the global pandemic at Maine’s public universities in the upcoming budget year will exceed $20 million in terms of lost event revenue, student safety allowances in dining and residence hall operations, and investments in technology and safety equipment and supplies.
The budget before the Board’s Finance, Facilities and Technology Committee today does include a long-planned tuition adjustment for the rate of inflation of 2.5% as determined by the consumer price index — see page 57 of today’s budget materials. The University of Maine System has been planning for the inflation-based adjustment since the start of its budget process a year ago and has been forecasting the intention to annually increase tuition at a rate not to exceed the rate of inflation through FY 2021 since the Multi-Year Financial Analysis published in May of 2017 (slide 2 projected inflation for FY 21 at 2.3%).
The budget before the Board includes an unresolved $5.69 million shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, approximately 1% of planned expenditures. University leaders will be making adjustments to their spending plans with the oversight of Trustees as uncertainty around state appropriations, enrollment, and other Covid-related impacts are resolved.
“After a six-year tuition freeze that established Maine as a national leader on affordability, the universities have been proceeding with annual increases to tuition matching the rate of inflation so the cost of public higher education in Maine does not grow faster than family incomes,” said Dan Demeritt, spokesman for the University of Maine System. “This year is no different. Covid-19 will have a big impact on operations and revenues this academic year, but Maine’s universities will meet these challenges and be prepared to serve our students in the fall without a Covid-19 tuition increase.”