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 cost of everything has been going up these days but by providing the university funding so that it can keep tuition priced the same next year, it will make it easier for me to stay in school so I can complete my nursing degree and not have to take out student loans that would be difficult to pay back working here in the County.”  – Nicole Caddell of Bridgewater, University of Maine at Fort Kent Student

“What keeps me awake at night is access to talent. We need to do two things: keep UMS tuition affordable to attract and retain students and invest in critical university infrastructure. Supporting affordable, accessible post-secondary education for Maine families in facilities that meet the needs of teaching and research, are flexible and adaptable to the needs of tomorrow, and environmentally sustainable is critical to building a bright future for Maine.” – Ellen Belknap, President of SMRT and University of Maine Board of Visitors Member

Thanks to the support of the 130th Maine Legislature and Governor Mills, the University of Maine System (UMS) secured critical investments in our public universities’ ability to produce needed talent, research and innovation for Maine’s economy and communities, including:

  • A one-time appropriation of $7.9M in fiscal year 2023 (FY23) that will allow Maine’s public universities to hold in-state tuition flat in the 2022-23 academic year – the seventh time in a decade. While this one-time funding creates serious financial challenges for UMS in future years, holding the line on tuition now acknowledges the importance of postsecondary access and degree attainment to the post-pandemic recovery of Maine’s families and economy. Full-time Maine students will save up to $582.
  • Additional $7.5 million (M) 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 to better recruit and retain students and meet the workforce preparation needs of Maine employers in high-growth fields like engineering and computing — all while supporting good-paying construction jobs across the state.
  • The first increase since fiscal year 2016 (FY16) in UMS research and development (R&D) through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, known as MEIF, which has a nearly 6:1 rate of return. Building on the University of Maine’s recent designation as one of the nation’s top research universities (R1), the additional $2M annual appropriation will expand university research, development and commercialization 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.

Other legislation enacted as a result of UMS advocacy and the support of the Maine Legislature and Governor Mills includes, but is not limited to:

  • 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.)
  • Establishment of a task force to study the highly successful UMS early college program and make recommendations to inform future policymaking and investment to further improve equitable student access and outcomes.
  • Additional ongoing funding to support growing demand for tick testing and surveillance by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Diagnostic and Research Laboratory.
  • The first targeted State investment to expand the efforts of Maine’s public universities to prevent campus sexual violence, support survivors, and foster a culture where sexual and domestic violence are unacceptable.
  • Codification in State statute of the opportunities for our UMS student-athletes to benefit financially from their name, image and likeness, known as NIL, consistent with university and The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) policies.
  • Establishment of the Maine Space Corporation, leveraging the strength of space education and research at the University of Maine and the University of Southern Maine and our industry and government partnerships to grow Maine’s space and aerospace economy.

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.

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, in 2021 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 with support from the Office of Government & Community Relations. UMS advanced high-impact projects to Maine’s Congressional 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 secured more than $21 million for UMS projects in federal Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) Appropriations through the earmark process, including for the University of Maine Green Engineering and Materials Factory of the Future ($10M), Pediatric and obstetric mobile and stationary simulators for nursing education and training to be shared by UMS universities ($1M), the University of Maine at Farmington Sweatt-Winter Early Childhood Education Center Expansion ($1M) and a System-wide teacher residency programs ($989,000). 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. For more information about the federal funding secured for UMS in the FY22 federal budget thanks to the leadership of the Maine delegation led by Sen. Susan Collins, please click here (External Site).

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, University of Maine. 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.