The University of Maine System is offering in-state tuition to students at other colleges and universities who may be displaced by permanent closures related to COVID-19.

The Maine Welcome program is a first-of-its-kind national offer to help students affected by the coronavirus with college affordability and completing their degrees, the system announced Thursday.

University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

“College instability has never been a bigger threat to student success,” Chancellor Dannel Malloy said a statement. “The higher education marketplace was in the midst of a disruptive transition before a global health pandemic upended the spring semester and eliminated billions of dollars in campus revenues at colleges and universities.”

The proposed average in-state tuition for full-time students in 2020-21 is $8,071 for undergraduates and $23,190 for law school students. The system’s board of trustees is scheduled to act on the proposed tuition rates in May.

The current average in-state tuition for undergraduates is $7,871 while the average out-of-state tuition is $17,975, not including room and board.

According to the College Board, Maine’s tuition and room and board prices fall in the middle of the pack when compared to other states. In 2019-2020 room and board and tuition at public four-year institutions ranged from a low of $5,580 in Wyoming to $17,470 in Vermont.

The coronavirus has forced widespread college and university closures, most for the remainder of the spring semester, though some schools have questioned whether they will be able to welcome students back in the fall and are making contingency plans for the continuation of remote learning.

In some cases the virus has added to existing financial struggles, forcing the closures of a handful of campuses around the country. The Vermont State Colleges System last week said it was considering closing two campuses as part of a restructuring but withdrew the proposal Wednesday after pushback from students, employees and communities.

The Maine Welcome program will also work with teach-out agreements by which schools that have closed can continue to honor their contracts with students through the University of Maine System, though no such agreements have been entered into yet as a result of the virus.

The University of Maine System is planning to open its campuses to students and in-person instruction in the fall and has launched a Fall 2020 Safe Return Committee that is working to establish plans and protocols to do so.

“We have a place here for successful students whose plans have been upended by a college closure,” University of Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings said in a statement Thursday. “Students who join us at the University of Southern Maine institutions will be valued and have the support they need to complete their academic programs.”

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