The Legislature’s Education Committee signed off Thursday on a supplemental budget proposal that would give the University of Maine System additional funding in order to hold off a tuition increase in the current 2016-17 academic year.

Under the agreement, offered last March, the governor agreed to provide an additional $7.6 million to the system. It includes about $4.65 million to offset a tuition hike, $2 million for early college programs for high school students taking college-level courses, and $550,000 for pre-law programs to increase diversity.

The committee also approved supplementary budget changes for the community college system and the state Department of Education, mostly for minor budget adjustments. The changes now go to the Appropriations Committee for approval.

The supplemental budget adjusts the last biennial budget, already approved by the Legislature, not the new two-year state spending plan the governor delivered to the Legislature earlier this month. That proposal includes major changes to funding the state’s K-12 schools and other education-related proposals and will be debated and voted on in the coming months.

Tuition at the UMaine System is closely watched, in order to keep college affordable and still provide needed revenue. The system has frozen tuition for six years now in exchange for stable state funding. Along the way, the trustees have made major cuts to programs and staffing and overhauled multiple departments to cut costs.

In most other states, tuitions have increased and state funding has dropped over the same time period.

In-state tuition and fees at the flagship campus in Orono are about $10,606 per year, slightly higher than the national average of $9,410. Tuition at the University of Southern Maine is about $8,000 annually.

That will change this fall, as the trustees have signaled a plan to increase tuition annually by the cost of living and have already approved a new three-tiered tuition model that will increase tuition at four campuses.

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.

Going forward there will be three prices: One at the University of Maine, a slightly lower tuition at the University of Maine-Farmington and USM, and the least expensive tuition at the remaining four campuses. Tuition will default to the highest tuition charged in each group, meaning USM students will pay the higher UMF tuition. That means under current tuition rates, USM tuition will increase by $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 will be at the Machias level of $6,660 per year, meaning students at Fort Kent, Presque Isle and Augusta will pay about $60 a year more.

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

The trustees will decide whether to increase tuition when they vote this spring on the budget.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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