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

For a full-time student taking 30 credit hours over two semesters, annual tuition in 2010-11 will remain at $2,520.

The two-year college system has frozen tuition six of the last 11 years, from 1999-2000 through 2005-05, Fitzsimmons said.

By fall, the cost of annual tuition and fees is 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 by the recent efforts of Gov. John Baldacci and the Maine Legislature to restore $1.7 million in funding that had been targeted for cuts.

Fitzsimmons said the restored funds and “significant belt tightening” at each college will enable the institutions to freeze tuition while maintaining current programs and enrollment levels.

Although the system that serves 16,300 students has been successful in holding down tuition increases, 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,” noted Fitzsimmons, “but there’s still work to do to make higher education more accessible to more Maine people.”

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