The University of Maine in Orono has introduced a very smart program that could boost attendance at the state’s flagship campus.

The Flagship Match program will allow academically qualified students from six targeted states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) to attend UMaine at the same price that they would have paid to go to their home state’s flagship university.

This program has a number of potential benefits. Cost-conscious students who are looking for a way to leave their home states would have the experience of living in Maine for four years. UMaine would be able to stem the decline in enrollment that is the inevitable result of the state’s aging population. And the state would have the economic benefit that comes from attracting promising students to the university who may decide to stay in Maine after graduation, live here and pay taxes.

The program makes so much sense that it raises the question of whether a state like Maine really benefits from having high out-of-state tuition at any of its campuses. Declining enrollments lead to budget cuts, which reduce opportunity for Maine students, and discourage talented young people from moving here.

Used strategically, tuition decreases for attractive students from other states could keep the university system sustainable while building Maine’s workforce.

In the 2015-16 academic year, Maine residents pay $10,606 in tuition and fees to attend the flagship campus and $8,540 at the University of Southern Maine. Out-of-state students pay $30,000 in tuition and fees to come to a Maine state university.

The rationale for charging such different prices for the same thing is that in-state students are receiving a public subsidy.

But discouraging out-of-state students from attending may not do the Maine kids any favors.

For instance, the 2014 budget cuts at USM were largely driven by declining enrollments. A few hundred more students, whether they were from Maine or not, could have saved some faculty jobs and kept programs viable. That would have been helpful to Maine resident students who struggle to get the classes that they need to graduate on time.

Every year in Maine, the number of high school graduates declines. Maine’s public universities can only shrink over time unless there is an influx of students from other states.

And it’s a well-documented phenomenon that college graduates often decide to live in the state where they attended school. A 2003 study by Jeffrey A. Groen and Michelle J. White found that since educated workers earn more and pay higher taxes, regardless of where they were born, educating out-of-state students is an economic winner.

Instead of the traditional divide between in-state and out-of-state students, Maine could look to the pricing system used by the airlines. An airplane could take off half empty, or the airline could adjust the last-minute prices to make sure that every seat is filled. Unlike airline passengers, not every student is equal, but the same logic holds: It’s easier to support the fixed costs of running a university when there are enough students to fill the classrooms.

UMaine’s tuition match program is a great first step. It should be a prod for the University of Maine System board of trustees to rethink the entire concept of out-of-state tuition.