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 affordable, high-quality postsecondary education and workforce training provided by Maine’s public universities is the most effective path to social mobility for Mainers and economic prosperity for our state. In direct response to the needs of Maine’s people and employers, the 130th Legislature and Gov. Mills made historical investments in public education, especially from Pre-K to community college. The Governor’s FY24-25 biennial budget builds on those investments and further strengthens pathways to college and great-paying Maine careers.” -UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy

Governor Mills and recent legislatures have recognized the essential role of our System as the state’s leading driver of educational attainment and economic development and have begun to redress the historic underfunding of UMS. In 2023, with the support of the Governor and 131st Maine Legislature, UMS secured:

  • 4.5% base appropriations increases for UMS (known as Education and General Activities) in both FY24 and FY25 — bringing E&G appropriations to $229.5M in FY24 and total State funding for UMS this fiscal year to $269M. Over the previous 20 years (FY04-23), the System’s base appropriation has increased annually by just 1.6% — well below the rate of inflation. 
  • An additional $2.5 million annually for high-impact UMS research and development through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, known as MEIF, which has a 6:1 rate of return. This investment builds on a $2 million increase already secured in FY23, representing a remarkable 25% increase in State support for UMS R&D since the University of Maine achieved R1 Carnegie Classification. 
  • Funding to continue (in FY25) the innovative Maine Teacher Residency, initially funded by Congressionally Directed Spending supported by Sens. Collins and King. A Systemwide, statewide program led by the University of Southern Maine to grow Maine’s educator workforce.

Other legislation enacted through UMS advocacy with the support of the Maine Legislature and Governor Mills includes:

  • In recognition of the leading role of UMS in medical workforce development and research, State funding for a third-party study to determine the feasibility of establishing a public medical school associated with the University of Maine in Penobscot County.
  • Expansion of the Maine Dental Education Loan Program to support allied dental professionals including those educated at the University of Maine at Augusta (hygienists, dental assistants and EFDAs).  Additionally, UMS secured legislative support for a study as to the feasibility of UMA establishing a public dental therapy degree program.
  • An additional $1 million for the Nurse Faculty Loan Repayment Program to improve faculty recruitment and retention and enable UMS to continue to expand nursing program enrollment.
  • Historic investments in early childhood education, including through salary supplements for early childhood educators.
  • Establishment of a commission with UMS members to modernize the state’s public policy on postsecondary education.
  • Creation of a new statewide business incentives program that provides tax credits for investing in approved workforce development, including through UMS.

UMS also successfully advocated to prevent taxation of public university endowments.

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

  • A base appropriation increase of 3% annually, in addition to an ongoing appropriation of $7.9 million to enable UMS to hold student tuition flat in FY23 – the seventh time in a decade.
  • Additional $7.5 million in ongoing annual debt service for payments on UMS revenue bonds, the proceeds of which will be used to modernize public university infrastructure including classrooms, laboratories and residence halls. The investment will further leverage at least $40M in privately raised funds and allow UMS to make more than $100M in capital improvements.
  • The first increase since 2016 in UMS research and development through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund. Building on the University of Maine’s recent designation as one of the nation’s top research universities (R1), the additional $2 million annual appropriation will expand university R&D in partnership with the private sector, including by increasing high-impact paid student research learning experiences that prepare graduates to be problem-solvers, innovators and leaders in Maine’s workforce.
  • 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 thousands of 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 Maine 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 through UMS advocacy with the support of the Maine Legislature and Governor Mills includes:

  • Creation of a pilot University of Maine School of Law legal aid clinic in Aroostook County, expanding access to free legal aid for Mainers in need while developing our future rural attorney workforce. Currently, law students practicing through Maine Law’s Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic provide nearly 14,000 hours of pro bono representation to low-income Mainers each year, mostly in southern, western and central Maine.  (Funding to support the pilot provided by the Office of the Maine Attorney General and Attorney General Aaron Frey.
  • 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 $1.6 billion in deferred maintenance and imminent need.
  • Establishment of a pilot 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.
  • 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.