The University of Maine System is delaying consideration of a proposed tuition increase to determine whether a supplemental state budget proposal and strong fall enrollment deposits will allow in-state tuition rates to remain flat in the upcoming year.

The system’s board of trustees was scheduled to vote Monday on a proposed 2.5 percent average tuition increase but now expects to push the tuition proposal and consideration of the overall budget into June.

“The pandemic has been hard on many Maine families,” James Erwin, the board’s chairman, said in a statement Friday. “The governor’s supplemental budget request for the University of Maine System now before the Legislature creates an opportunity for us to bring our Maine students back in the fall without raising in-state tuition costs.”

The supplemental budget proposal from Gov. Janet Mills was announced this month following a May 5 vote by the board’s finance committee to advance the system budget and tuition proposal. The governor’s proposal, which is subject to approval by the Legislature, includes a 3 percent state appropriation increase that amounts to $6 million in base funding support for the UMaine System.

In a statement Friday, Mills said she supports the system’s decision to try to forgo a tuition increase for in-state students. “The University of Maine System experienced heavy losses as a result of the pandemic, but our public higher education opportunities remain the best bargain for anyone looking to advance their skills, credentials and careers,” Mills said. “I thank the UMS administration and board of trustees for their reconsideration, and I hope they will be able to hold the line on expenses and tuition hikes for Maine students.”

The system also is reporting fall enrollment deposits that are ahead of last year’s pace and 6 percent ahead of the pre-pandemic 2019 admissions cycle. The traditional deposit deadline for fall enrollment is May 1.

With just over 100 days to go before the start of classes, the system has received 5,079 commitments for fall enrollment for first-year and transfer students, which is 648 more than at the same point last year.

The average cost for a full-time, in-state student in the UMaine System in 2020-21 was $18,877 including tuition, mandatory fees and room and board. Under the current proposal, which also includes an average 2.3 percent room and board increase, the total would be $19,760. If the board decides to hold tuition flat, students would still be subject to some changes to reflect room and board charges.

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition, fees, and room and board at public four-year universities nationwide was estimated to be $22,180 for in-state students in 2020-21. The average cost at private universities was $50,770. The state with the lowest in-state tuition was Wyoming, while Vermont’s in-state tuition of $17,510, not including room and board, made it the most expensive, according to the board.

There hasn’t been a final decision yet on whether the UMaine System’s proposed tuition increase for out-of-state students will remain in the budget for next year, Chancellor Dannel Malloy said. “The decision today is we’re delaying a vote and consideration of the budget taking into consideration now the 3 percent increase (in the state budget) and pressing the numbers on our matriculation and deposits and looking at that,” he said.

The University of Maine System has experienced more than $100 million in pandemic-related losses and new expenses, some of which has been offset by $72.1 million federal and state relief. At the same time, Malloy said the system is trying to be sensitive to the impact the pandemic has had on Maine students.

“We looked at what we could accomplish this particular year and made the decision this particular year is not the time for us to increase tuition on in-state students,” he said.


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