The University of Maine System (UMS) Office of Government & Community Relations builds awareness and appreciation among local, state and federal officials for the important role of our public universities in serving and strengthening Maine’s citizens, communities and economy.

The office works proactively to build relationships with policymakers and their staff, leverage our world-class research and knowledge to inform their work, and be responsive to their requests for information. Central to this is preparing and facilitating our faculty, staff, students and partners to most effectively engage with elected officials and showing legislators university teaching, research and public service in action on our campuses and in our communities.

Consistent with the UMS Board of Trustees’ policy, the office develops and advances the strategic legislative agenda of the University System and its campuses. To do so most effectively, the office coordinates all official engagement by our employees with Maine’s elected officials, though employees may of course always do so as private citizens.

In partnership with the University of Maine’s Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center, the office also delivers the UMS Faculty Fellows Program, an innovative six-month training and networking program designed to prepare an annual cohort of faculty leaders to more effectively engage external constituents on behalf of their work and Maine’s public universities.

The 130th Maine Legislature and Governor Mills made historic investments in public postsecondary education access, affordability and degree attainment, including:

  • A base appropriations increase of 3% annually, allowing UMS to hold in-state, undergraduate tuition flat to assist Maine students and families recover from the pandemic.
  • Increase from $1,500 to $2,500 the minimum award amount of the FAME-administered Maine State Grant that assists undergraduates with financial need with their college costs – further narrowing the affordability gap for 6,300 UMS student recipients.
  • Additional $1.5 million annually to support growing demand for public early college offered through UMS and the community college system at no cost to high school students.
  • Targeted new $1.5 million annual investment in the University of Maine School of Law to support its temporary relocation and grow enrollment to expand Mainers’ access to justice and commerce – especially in underserved rural regions.
  • An investment of $35 million (from state’s share of American Rescue Plan Act relief) in UMS talent development, research and innovation, consistent with Maine’s 10-year economic plan and to directly address negative impacts of the pandemic.

Taken together, these investments will help UMS advance the social mobility of Maine people and the equitable recovery of our state’s economy. Other legislation enacted thanks to UMS advocacy and the support of the Maine Legislature and Governor Mills includes:

  • New language clarifying that UMS borrowing for which the debt service is being paid by a committed external party, like the Harold Alfond Foundation or the State, does not count against the System’s statutory $350 million debt cap – critical to UMS addressing its $1.3 billion in deferred maintenance and imminent need.
  • Establishment of a new UMS policy research and evaluation center to serve the Legislature’s Committee on Innovation, Development, Economic Advancement & Business, modeled after the Maine Education Policy Research Institute (MEPRI), a 25-year UMS/Education Committee research partnership.
  • Recommissioning of a task force to study college affordability and completion and report back recommendations to the Legislature to inform future policymaking and investment.
  • $1 million to fund the Nurse Faculty Loan Repayment Program to improve nursing faculty recruitment and retention – allowing Maine nursing schools to expand enrollment.
  • Establishment of a permanent appointment of a member of the Wabanaki Tribes to the UMS Board of Trustees.

On behalf of the students, faculty and staff, and the companies and communities dependent upon UMS, please thank your legislators and Governor Mills for their investments in Maine students and the public universities that support their future success and that of our economy. We look forward to working with elected leaders in the months ahead to build on this progress through further investments in our students and in UMS infrastructure and research, development and commercialization capacity.

Institution Institutional Relief Emergency Student Aid
University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias $23,800,000 $19,100,000
University of Maine at Augusta $6,000,000 $4,700,000
University of Maine at Farmington $6,300,000 $5,100,000
University of Maine at Fort Kent $2,300,000 $1,700,000
University of Maine at Presque Isle $2,400,000 $1,800,000
University of Southern Maine and University of Maine School of Law $16,000,000 $12,300,000

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has passed and the sitting President has signed three packages that have included much-needed direct aid for postsecondary institutions and their students through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). This relief recognizes the importance of America’s colleges and universities to protecting public and economic health. Campus allocations (summarized above) took into account the number of full- and part-time students, and the percentage of those who qualified for need-based federal Pell grants.

Collectively, UMS universities have received more than $57 million in HEERF institutional relief to offset lost revenue and assist with science-based investments to slow the spread of the virus, like asymptomatic testing and HVAC system modernization. Another $45 million has been received to pass-through to students with exceptional need to assist them with costs related to meeting their basic needs and college attendance. Eligible students can receive direct payments or give permission to have funds applied to their university account balance.

Additionally, this past spring Congress announced the restoration of the federal earmark process. Proposals were solicited from across UMS through the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research & Innovation. UMS advanced projects to our delegation for their consideration based on fit and eligibility for the earmark process, demonstrated community support, and ability to leverage other investments including those associated with UMS Transforms (implementation of the $240 million Harold Alfond Foundation gift) and produce a strong, immediate return for Maine. Collectively, Senators Collins and King and Representative Pingree selected more than $21 million in UMS proposals to advance through their respective appropriations committees for possible inclusion in the FY22 federal budget, a process still underway. These earmarks are in addition to federal funds secured through the regular appropriations process and through competitive solicitations to support university research, primarily at the University of Maine, which in FY21 generated a record $133.6 million in external funding to support R&D.

UMS is grateful for the ongoing engagement and support of Maine’s congressional delegation for our research, economic and workforce development, and innovation activities, especially at our land grant, UMaine. The System continues to advocate for federal policy and investments that expand affordable access to high-quality public postsecondary education, and that strengthen the public research and innovation enterprise essential to growing Maine’s economy and addressing grand challenges like climate change and disparities in health and education outcomes.