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

“Boldly increasing investment in UMS R&D is essential to achieving a vibrant and sustainable economy for Maine and consistent with the Growth Council’s long-standing recommendation to triple Maine’s R&D spending by 2030.” -Stephen Von Vogt, Co-Chair, Maine Economic Growth Council

Sustaining and Strengthening Maine’s Statewide Public Universities
Recognizing the critical importance of postsecondary degree attainment to the success of Maine’s people and economy as well as the historic underfunding of public higher education, the Governor’s biennial budget proposal provides the University of Maine System annual increases of 4.5%, which amounts to an additional $9,543,155 in FY24 and $19,515,752 in FY25. If supported by the Legislature, these additional appropriations will allow UMS to sustain our universities where they are amidst tremendous inflationary pressures while making strategic investments for the future and meeting our obligations to fairly compensate the world-class faculty and staff who serve our students and our state. Additionally, the FY24-25 budget makes permanent an appropriation of $7,935,354 provided in FY23 to minimize tuition hikes and student debt and maintain Maine’s national leadership in college access.

Did You Know: UMS is the largest contributor to the state’s workforce and in the past decade, has awarded nearly 56,000 degrees, led by those in nursing/healthcare professions, business, engineering and education. In FY23, 43% of the UMS operating budget was supported by State appropriation and 48% from student tuition and fees. In FY90, the State’s share was 72.5%. Still, UMS leads four-year universities in the region for tuition affordability, and UMaine is the most affordable flagship in New England (about 30% lower total cost of attendance than UNH). UMS tuition as a percentage of per capita income in Maine has declined each year for the past decade to less than 14%.

Increase Statewide University Research Activity to Diversify and Grow Maine’s Economy

Gov. Mills’ proposed FY24–25 biennial budget also includes a $3M increase in commercially promising public university research and innovation through the Maine Economic Improvement Fund (MEIF). In 2022, MEIF had a 6:1 rate of return for the state and allowed UMS universities — led by the now-R1 flagship UMaine — to directly support hundreds of Maine companies and provide high-impact, hands-on paid research learning experiences for 1,000+ students. Additional investment will enable UMS to better prepare more graduates to be problem-solvers and innovators in the Maine workforce and help companies here grow and create more great-paying jobs while sustaining the state’s abundant natural resources.

Did You Know: Small businesses account for 99% of private enterprise in Maine. Many lack their own R&D capacity and rely on UMS expertise and facilities to develop the talent, technology, and new and improved products and processes they need to be competitive. Maine ranks 44th of the 50 states in R&D spending — a key driver of economic growth.

“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.

“We are so grateful that Sens. Collins and King and Reps. Pingree and Golden value and understand our universities and their unique capacity to drive growth and opportunity across this state. This infusion of investment couldn’t come at a better time for our System and state, and truly demonstrates the commitment of the delegation and our public universities to Maine’s more prosperous future.” -Chancellor Dannel Malloy

“For every challenge confronting Maine, the University of Maine has unmatched research strength and strong community connections that, when catalyzed by this federal funding that leverages state investment and other external grants and contracts, can result in real solutions that will make a difference here in Maine. We are so grateful for the ongoing partnership with our terrific delegation, which reflects a deep commitment to our state’s students and communities and the vital institutions like ours that serve them. While these investments will initially enhance university facilities and expand education and research programs, the impact will be that Mainers are better equipped with the knowledge, skills and innovations necessary to shape Maine’s future and its place in the world.” –  UMS Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation and UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy

Thanks to the leadership of Maine’s congressional delegation, the omnibus FY23 spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the President includes $53 million in one-time investments in infrastructure and initiatives that will allow Maine’s public universities to accelerate economic and community development across the state.

Many of the University of Maine System projects, known as earmarks, funded at the direct request of Sen. Susan Collins, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Angus King and Rep. Jared Golden, with the support of Rep. Chellie Pingree, who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, will be led by the University of Maine.

This includes a new PFAS testing and research lab and outreach program; modernization of the nation’s only dedicated wild blueberry research facility located in Jonesboro, and an aquaculture  research and development center in Franklin to help those industries innovate with new products and processes; a food innovation center to support local food processing; and further funding toward construction of a cutting-edge Green Engineering and Materials Factory of the Future connected to UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. UMaine will also undertake the first-of-its-kind statewide tick and tick-borne disease study and conduct outreach to manage and mitigate threats to human health, and lead the collaborative creation of a roadmap for Maine’s agriculture economy.

The one-time appropriations will also launch or expand targeted education and workforce development programs offered through UMS universities and centers in Augusta, Bangor, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Orono, Portland, Presque Isle, Rumford and Rockland in areas of high employer need, including nursing, dental assisting, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, aviation maintenance, entrepreneurship, immigration law and forestry.

With $1.3 billion in deferred maintenance, flat tuition, and modest state appropriations increases that fall short of rising compensation and other costs, the restoration of the federal earmark process offers Maine’s public universities an opportunity to finally advance long-needed and planned projects, though the one-time funds will not support ongoing operations.

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; alignment with university, local and state priorities; and likelihood of producing a strong, immediate return for Maine.

UMS is currently planning its FY24 Congressionally Directed Spending request portfolio.

The System 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 R1 land, sea and space grant, UMaine. UMS also 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.