BANGOR — Students at the University of Southern Maine and three other campuses would pay a one-time tuition increase under a proposal to shift the entire University of Maine System to a new pricing model, system officials said Monday at a trustees meeting.

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 campuses in Fort Kent and Presque Isle.

Under the proposal, there would be three prices: One at the University of Maine, a slightly lower tuition at the University of Maine at Farmington and USM, and the least expensive tuition at the remaining four campuses.

Tuition would default to the highest tuition charged in each group, meaning USM students would pay the higher UMF tuition. In an example given Monday of the potential impact, using current tuition rates, USM tuition would increase $240, from $7,590 a year ($253 per credit hour) to $7,830 a year ($261 per credit hour.)

Tuition at the four remaining campuses would be at the Machias level of $6,660 per year, and students at Fort Kent, Presque Isle and Augusta would, hypothetically, see a slight increase in tuition of about $60 a year under the proposal.

Chief Financial Officer Ryan Low said the changes would be simple, fair and transparent for students, while making it easier internally for system officials to budget and allocate state funds.


The trustees are scheduled to vote in September on the proposal, which is part of a sweeping set of recommendations under a new unified systemwide budget process. Any tuition change would not take effect until the 2017-18 academic year, officials said.

Tuition has been frozen in the system for six years, in contrast to an average 13 percent increase in inflation-adjusted tuition at public four-year schools nationwide over the past five years. The trustees voted in March to keep tuition flat, after Gov. Paul LePage promised an extra $4.65 million in state funding if they would hold off on a potential 2.3 percent tuition increase for the 2016-17 academic year. The current proposal would not affect that deal.

Among the other changes presented Monday by Low: charging one price for online-only undergraduate degrees, streamlining the various student fees, changing how state aid is allocated to the campuses, and creating a “One University” scholarship for in-state merit aid that could be used at any campus.

There is also a proposal to create a new $5-per-credit-hour student fee to pay for facility and information technology upgrades. Ryan said the proposed fee was one of the more controversial ideas.

“This is the one recommendation that the feedback was on one end or the other,” he said. “No one was indifferent.”

Currently, mandatory annual student fees range from $2,258 at Orono to $700 at Presque Isle.


The recommendations also addressed some implementation issues, including requiring campuses not to compete for price-shopping students by offering additional campus merit aid to in-state students.

Campus and system leaders have been working for more than a year to move the system to a unified budget model, part of a larger “One University” model aimed at cutting costs and streamlining operations internally and making the system more student-friendly.

In May, after years of budget deficits that prompted deep staffing and program cuts, Low told the trustees the system is finally forecasting a budget surplus in 2021.

Some parts of the One University plan have been completed, such as consolidating certain back-office functions. Other aspects lie ahead, such as the academic program changes. At the last trustees meeting, a string of faculty members spoke in opposition to some of the efforts, saying they felt left out of the process.

Also Monday, the trustees heard a presentation on the new $40 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for an experimental turbine being developed by a UMaine-led consortium for use in a floating, deep-water wind farm. It’s the largest single research and development project in the system’s history, officials said.

The consortium known as New England Aqua Ventus has the most advanced floating technology being developed in the United States, said Peter Vigue, chief executive officer of Cianbro, a partner in the consortium.

“This is a game changer,” Vigue told the board of trustees, after briefing members on the project. “This university, this system, has a massive potential to benefit. I believe that it not only puts Maine on the map, but it puts the university on the map.”

“We are off to an excellent start on this. This is a very big deal and also a very big commitment on our part,” Chancellor James Page said.

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