A University of Maine System board of trustees committee endorsed a $559.5 million operating budget Wednesday that would include a tuition increase. The full board will vote on the budget Friday.

The budget includes a $5.69 million expected shortfall that university leaders will address as unknown factors related to enrollment, state appropriations and pandemic impacts are resolved. It was backed by a vote of 8-1 by the board’s finance, facilities and technology committee, with board member Trevor Hustus dissenting.

The full board will meet remotely Friday to take up the budget, though the committee is also asking that it only be approved under certain conditions, including that it be allowed to review the budget again this fall and receive updates from system administrators on enrollment, ongoing pandemic needs, appropriations and any needed changes.

Other conditions requested are that all university budgets and the overall system budget be in balance with no deficits for the remainder of the fiscal year; and that the board endorse an ongoing systemwide hiring review process.

The budget approved by the committee includes an average tuition increase of 2.5 percent for in-state undergraduates across the system, and an average 3.1 percent tuition increase for out-of-state undergraduates. The system said Wednesday that while the anticipated cost of responding to the pandemic at Maine’s public universities is anticipated to exceed $20 million in the coming budget year, the tuition increase is not being driven by the virus, but rather is part of a long-planned adjustment for inflation.

“After a six-year tuition freeze that established Maine as a national leader on affordability, the universities have been proceeding with annual increases to tuition matching the rate of inflation so the cost of public higher education in Maine does not grow faster than family incomes,” said Dan Demeritt, spokesman for the University of Maine System, in a statement.

“This year is no different. COVID-19 will have a big impact on operations and revenues this academic year, but Maine’s universities will meet these challenges and be prepared to serve our students in the fall without a COVID-19 tuition increase.”


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