At their March meeting, the University of Maine System Board of Trustees made their commitment to affordable higher education abundantly clear by voting unanimously to extend the tuition freeze at Maine’s public universities into the 2016-2017 academic year. The board’s vote extends the freeze for a sixth year, the longest period without a tuition increase in the history of the university system.

Because of this commitment to affordability, Maine is the only state in the country to reduce the real cost of a four-year public higher education over the past five years. Meanwhile, public college and university tuition has increased nationally by 13 percent, according to the nonprofit College Board.

Remarkably, Maine’s universities have also increased their investment in financial aid packages over this time period by more than 30 percent. As students at Maine’s public universities, we have benefited tremendously from this commitment to affordability. This commitment has helped students of all ages from across the state – and beyond – to receive the quality education that is so important for success in today’s world.

Freezing tuition and investing in financial aid to improve affordability have not been easy tasks as Maine’s public universities continue to fight the challenges of outdated infrastructure, demographic-driven declines in the number of high school graduates across the state and competition from private and for-profit institutions that are using new education models like long-distance learning.

Before the March university system board meeting, Gov. LePage wrote to board Chair Samuel Collins to urge the extension of the tuition freeze, offering additional state funding to offset a proposed inflation-indexed tuition increase for the 2016-2017 academic year. The governor proposed including the tuition offset funding in a supplemental budget bill he will submit to the new Legislature in January.

In addition to the funding to extend the tuition freeze, the governor pledged to seek additional dollars to support the university’s early college programs, which give Maine high school students a chance to earn free or inexpensive college credit, and to support adult completion scholarship programs, which help adult learners finish their degrees.


The governor also suggested that the trustees develop a long-term investment plan to be included in a bond package with the intent of overhauling the infrastructure of Maine’s public universities. This long-term strategy is exactly what’s needed for our public universities to adapt to the modern environment. No matter your opinion of our governor, we hope you can appreciate this commitment to higher education for the people of Maine.

As attendees of the University of Southern Maine, we have firsthand experience of the financial challenges that have faced Maine’s public universities. We are pleased that the governor, the leaders of Maine’s public universities and many in the Legislature share a commitment to keeping college affordable for Maine students and extending college access throughout the state. We firmly believe that this shared commitment can shape the future of our state for the better.

There is enormous opportunity at Maine’s public universities for any student who puts the effort in to make the most out of their college experience. By engaging in the greater campus community, working with stellar faculty and learning with diverse peers, we have realized a remarkable financial value from our education.

The continuation of the tuition freeze is beneficial for students at Maine’s public universities, who often have to balance school, work and the countless extracurricular opportunities available. Maine’s commitment to affordability means that more students are able to dedicate themselves to their academics, get involved on campus and think long term about internships and graduate coursework, which are so important to career advancement.

We are both excited about the direction public higher education is going in Maine. We will continue to advocate for the best interests of the students as Maine’s public universities continue to plan for a future of sustainability, access and affordability. There can be no doubt: The tuition freeze is good news for Maine’s students, and for the state that we will help lead into the future.

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