Maine’s seven community colleges will freeze tuition at $84 per credit hour for the coming school year, the system’s president, John Fitzsimmons, announced Wednesday.

For a full-time student taking 30 credit hours over two semesters, annual tuition will remain at $2,520 in 2010-11. The Maine Community College System has frozen tuition in six of the past 11 years, Fitzsimmons said.

By fall, the tuition and fees at Maine community colleges, totaling $3,283, are expected to be the lowest in New England, where the average cost to attend a community college is $3,992, Fitzsimmons said.

“Maine has the lowest per capita income and the lowest college attainment rates in New England,” Fitzsimmons said. “Our colleges and board of trustees have made a sustained commitment to make higher education more affordable in Maine. In a tough economy, when students are struggling to enroll or stay in school, that effort has become all the more urgent.”

According to Fitzsimmons, the 2010-11 tuition freeze was made possible when Gov. John Baldacci and the Legislature recently restored $1.7 million in funding that had been targeted for cuts.

Fitzsimmons said the restored funding and “significant belt tightening” at each of the two-year colleges will enable them to freeze tuition while maintaining current programs and enrollment levels.

The system, which serves 16,300 students, has succeeded in holding down tuition and fee increases, but the cost to attend community college in Maine remains above the national average of $2,544 per year.

“Today’s announcement is an important milestone,” Fitzsimmons said, “but there’s still work to do to make higher education more accessible to more Maine people.”

The University of Maine System has yet to set 2010-11 tuition rates, said Peggy Markson, the system’s spokeswoman.

The board of trustees for the seven-university system is to address tuition costs when it meets May 23-24 at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

The university system’s current average annual tuition, weighted for in-state, undergraduate students, is $6,985, Markson said. 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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