Maine’s colleges and universities will split $41 million, half of which will go directly to students, under the first round of funding of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The heads of the University of Maine System and Maine Community College System, which will receive the largest amounts, said the money is welcome but won’t come close to covering the increased costs and lost revenue so far.

“We’re hoping it’s only the beginning,” UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy said Monday.

“By any standard, this is a lot of money, but the nature of the shock and the pace has really resulted in dramatic change,” added Community College System President David Daigler.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who sits on the Education Committee, announced the funds in a news release Monday.

The biggest share, $17.2 million, will go to the UMaine System and its seven campuses, led by $7.6 million for the flagship university in Orono. Another $8.7 million was awarded to community colleges, with Southern Maine Community College in South Portland receiving the most, about $2.8 million.

Other schools that received funding are: Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, University of New England, Husson University, College of the Atlantic, Maine College of Art, Maine Maritime Academy, St. Joseph’s College, Thomas College, Unity College and Northeast Technical Institute.

“In addition to threatening public health, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of millions of Americans, including students,” she said. “This investment will help Maine’s institutions of higher education offset the economic harm they have experienced due to the coronavirus, ensure faculty have the tools they need to continue to provide quality instruction, and support students.”

In all, more than $12 billion in CARES Act funds will go to higher education institutions throughout the country.

“I gave my team a charge as soon as the CARES Act was signed into law: Get support to those most in need as quickly as possible. That starts with college students whose lives have been disrupted, many of whom are facing financial challenges and struggling to make ends meet,” U.S. Education Secretary Betsy Devos said in an April 9 letter to college and university presidents.

Schools will offer direct aid to students to help pay for housing, food, course materials, technology, health care and child care. Most campuses already have issued room and board refunds to students who lived on campus.

Daigler, who oversees a system of 17,000 students, said that although the federal funds were distributed to schools based on a formula – largely driven by the percentage of students who receive Pell Grants – there is no formula for how to get the money to students.

“We are in the process of building our criteria, but it will be a case-by-case analysis,” he said.

Daigler said students who lack access to technology needed to take courses remotely would be prioritized, as would students who have been laid off from a part-time job that helps pay for their education. More than half of Maine’s community college students work at least 20 hours a week.

Malloy said each UMaine campus will determine how to distribute money to students, but the system would sign off. There are approximately 27,000 students enrolled systemwide.

“We clearly are in a tough place,” he said. “The university system and the individuals are doing everything they can to be supportive of the broader citizenry … but I think the bulk of this money will be spent very quickly.”

Malloy said last month in a letter to Maine’s congressional delegation that the coronavirus already was having a “devastating financial impact” – an estimated $20 million in short-term losses. On Monday, he said the losses are considerably more than that.

Technology upgrades that ensure professors can deliver – and students can access – lectures remotely have been some of the biggest costs.

Both Malloy and Daigler said the transition to remote learning has gotten easier each week.

Daigler said the community college system just worked with the state board of respiratory therapists to provide temporary licenses to 22 soon-to-be graduating students. Although the students have not taken or passed board exams, each has completed the requirements for graduation and their skills may soon be needed as more people become hospitalized with respiratory problems from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.