As someone who is very active within the southern Maine business community, I welcome the University of Maine’s recent news about its increased enrollment, including the successful recruitment of out-of-state students, detailed in Noel Gallagher’s Sept. 12 story, “Fewer students overall at UMaine System, but more from outside.”

This promising response from so many qualified prospective students, who have by now settled into their first year at the state’s flagship university, will benefit the entire state.

UMaine has demonstrated its commitment to making higher education affordable for Maine students, and with this action, has brought some of the best and brightest to Maine from other states – future leaders, community supporters and tomorrow’s workforce.

For four years, the majority of these students will live and work in Maine while pursuing their academic interests, and we will benefit in return. They all will have opportunities to be active participants in helping to achieve UMaine’s statewide mission by being engaged in our communities in a range of activities – from research fieldwork and service learning projects to internships, student teaching and volunteering.

These young leaders have the opportunity to plug in to UMaine’s extensive partnerships throughout the state and help meet the needs of businesses and government and nonprofit agencies, while gaining hands-on experience that can be turned into lifelong knowledge and understanding.

When they graduate, many of these students will choose to stay in Maine, fulfilling the needs of employers, both large and small, and drive our economy forward. All of this has the potential to make a deep and positive impact on Maine’s future.

UMaine’s commitment to providing a high-quality education at an affordable price resonates with students and their families, and the university is to be applauded for its innovative, forward-thinking leadership in meeting the needs of the state, while also addressing fiscal concerns.

It is no easy task, and there is much work left to be done. It has required innovative thinking about academic programming, staffing and budgets, both in Orono and in public higher education statewide.

The University of Maine continues to invest in financial aid in order to better compete with out-of-state universities to keep and attract talented students. And the university is focused on helping students manage the costs of higher education once they arrive in Orono through innovative initiatives such as Think 30, which offers year-round scheduling to facilitate graduation in four years, and the Textbook Alternative Program, in which faculty replace costly textbooks with open-access online and other less-expensive materials.

UMaine is also forming partnerships with the other University of Maine System campuses to ensure that all qualified Maine citizens have access to affordable degree programs. Looking forward, we know that it will require even greater focus and determination to succeed in the increasingly competitive higher education environment.

Toward this end, it is well worth noting that the University of Maine System has not raised the tuition rate for Maine students for six consecutive years. What’s more, the seven campuses are collaborating at an unprecedented level through the chancellor’s and the board of trustees’ One University initiative.

The recent announcement of a primary partnership between UMaine and the University of Maine at Machias is another example of practical, outside-the-box thinking at the flagship and its sister campus. The system’s strategic initiatives have the potential to be truly transformative for Maine’s future and are deserving of our support and engagement.

Students at UMaine will discover what I and more than 107,000 alumni have experienced – the best opportunity for securing your future is right in your own backyard.

For years, those of us who benefited from a UMaine education and know the quality of a University of Maine degree have said that the University of Maine is the best-kept secret in New England.

It now appears that the secret is out. That’s great for students and Maine businesses – and very good for the state of Maine.