The University of Maine System board of trustees conditionally approved a $559.5 million budget including a cost-of-living tuition increase Friday.

The budget was approved by a vote of 13-1 with student board member Trevor Hustus voting in opposition because of the tuition increase.

Tuition for in-state undergraduate students will increase on average 2.5 percent – to $8,071 not counting room and board and fees – while the average increase for out-of-state undergraduates is 3.1 percent. Along with room and board and mandatory fees, that brings the overall average annual cost for in-state students to $18,877, an increase of about $550.

The budget includes a $5.69 million unresolved shortfall and was approved subject to a handful of conditions, including the option for the board and its finance committee to review it again throughout the fall, and for system administration to propose changes as more information becomes available about enrollment, state appropriations and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The expenses and uncertainty of COVID-19 has created unprecedented budget challenges for Maine’s public universities,” said Chancellor Dannel Malloy in a statement. “While there is work yet to do, today’s vote by the board makes it clear that students and their families will not face a tuition increase this fall related to the costs of COVID-19.”

Other conditions of approval are that all university budgets and the overall system budget be in balance with no deficits, and that the board endorse an ongoing systemwide review of the hiring process.

Discussion on the budget Friday was minimal. While Hustus said he could not support the budget because of the financial impact of the tuition increase on students, some board members said a cost-of-living tuition increase was necessary because of the budget deficit and uncertainty.

The costs of responding to the pandemic at Maine’s public universities in the coming budget year are expected to exceed $20 million in terms of lost event revenue, lost dining and residence hall revenues and investments in technology and safety equipment and supplies.

“I’m comfortable with this budget because it is our best effort based on what we know today without making cuts that will affect our ability to make our campuses a place students want to come to this fall and learn in whatever form that takes, in-person or online,” said Trustee Emily Cain. “I believe this does represent our best opportunity today.”


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