AUGUSTA — Students in the University of Maine System are likely to see an increase in tuition and fees this fall, the first hike in six years.

The additional tuition, fees, and room and board costs will result in an overall increase of 2.9 percent, officials said Sunday.

“We held tuition flat for six years to ensure we kept tuition affordable for average Maine families,” Chancellor James Page said after a budget briefing at the board of trustees meeting in Augusta. “We needed to show we are good financial stewards and we’ve done that. Now it is time to invest.”

For in-state students, tuition, fees, and room and board would increase to $19,074 a year, compared to the current $18,545. Out-of-state students – who pay about three times as much as Mainers for tuition alone – would see an increase of about the same amount, for a total of about $41,500.

The trustees will vote on the increase, first proposed last year, at their May meeting as part of the budget.

Several student representatives to the board of trustees said students on their campuses know about the pending increase and aren’t that upset about it.

“When you show students the data, they understand it,” said Samuel Borer, a junior at the University of Maine studying physics and math. “It came down to people understanding what was happening.”

There was some early confusion, according to Brad O’Brien, the student representative from the University of Maine at Augusta.

“There was a lot of fear,” said O’Brien, a senior in liberal studies. “There was a lot of conversation, talking about how the money was going to be used.” Campus and system leaders met with students to explain the changes, he said.

“We are looking at specific strategies” in planning for the future, Page said. “We’re not going to come back and start piling up costs.”

Adjusted for inflation, Maine has had the second largest decline in tuition nationwide over the last five years, according to the College Board, which tracks college costs. Tuition decreased in Washington state this year after a $200 million infusion from the legislature specifically to lower tuition up to 20 percent, and California saw a slight decline in tuition. All other states increased their tuition and fees over the same period.

University of Maine System officials say they intend to increase tuition annually, tied to the rate of inflation. Their budget projections anticipate that the state allocation for the system will also increase at the rate of inflation.

This fall is also the start of the system’s new three-tiered tuition plan, part of the move to a unified budget system.

Currently, each of the seven campuses charges its own tuition, ranging from a high of $8,370 a year at the flagship campus in Orono to a low of $6,600 a year at the campuses in Fort Kent and Presque Isle.

In the fall, tuition will be $8,580 a year at the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Farmington; $7,860 at the University of Southern Maine; and $6,840 a year at the campuses in Augusta, Fort Kent, Machias and Presque Isle.

In-state tuition for graduate programs will increase to $7,722 a year at the University of Maine, $7,074 a year at USM and $7,002 a year at Farmington. Tuition at the University of Maine School of Law is unchanged at $22,290 a year.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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