FARMINGTON – The University of Maine at Farmington hopes to attract the top high school students in the state by offering them a scholarship that pays nearly a third of their tuition and fees.

Beginning next fall, the liberal arts college is making the offer available to applicants from Maine with the best grades during high school. It’s renewable annually for up to four years if recipients keep their grades up in college.

Promising high school students have been fleeing Maine in recent years, and the merit-based scholarship may give them a reason to stick around, said Roberto Noya, vice president for enrollment management and marketing at UMF.

“We want to attract the top kids to remain here in Maine,” he said.

The scholarship is worth $3,000 a year and is being awarded exclusively to first-year applicants from Maine, based on their grades in challenging academic programs through their junior year in high school.

Although it targets standout academic performance, the award was also created to help more students afford the $9,137 that Maine residents pay to attend the state college, Noya said.

Growing numbers of high school students are facing tough decisions on paying for higher education, with fears about everything from rising tuition to college debt after graduation, he said.

“From reading the papers and speaking to families, we can just tell the angst out there, they are so concerned about how they can afford (college),” he said.

It’s still unclear how many students will get the new scholarship and how much money the university plans to invest in the program. At least 80 first-year applicants this fall would have qualified for the award, translating into a $240,000 investment by the college.

The program is prepared to hand out this many scholarships in its first year, and if there is a significant increase in eligible students above that figure, the strongest applicants will be selected, Noya said.

Most students with A-minus averages in certain academic courses will qualify for the scholarship, provided they have taken a challenging college-preparatory courseload throughout high school, he said.

After an eligible student applies, the college will look at whether he or she qualifies for the program. The student would find out once they were accepted if they got the scholarship.

Noya declined to give details of the financial commitment, saying the college’s budget can support the program indefinitely and plans to offer the award to as many students as possible.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer David Robinson can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

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