October 12, 2017

Four UMaine campuses to waive tuition and fees for eligible Maine students

Courtesy / University of Maine System
Courtesy / University of Maine System
University of Maine at Presque Isle is one of four UMaine System campuses offering free tuition to financially challenged students hoping to pursue full-time study.

Campuses in the University of Maine System

Undergraduate headcount excluding "early college" students as of Oct. 11:

  • University of Maine: 9,134

  • University of Maine at Augusta: 3,618

  • University of Maine at Farmington: 1,767

  • University of Maine at Fort Kent: 1,105

  • University of Maine at Machias: 633

  • University of Maine at Presque Isle: 949

  • University of Southern Maine: 5,628

  • University of Maine System total: 22,834

Source: University of Maine System Office of Institutional Research

Hoping to lure more Maine undergraduates pursuing full-time study, four University of Maine System campuses will offer financially challenged students free tuition.

Starting next year, the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Augusta and Machias will waive tuition and standard fees for students that qualify for a federal Pell Grant as part of their financial aid package, the UMaine System announced on Wednesday.

In return, students will have to commit to taking at least 30 credits a year and maintaining a 2.0 grade point average. The program aims to reduce both student debt and the time it takes to complete a degree – which are closely related.

At UMPI, for example, "if you finish in four years the average debt load is $18,000, but it goes up to $35,000 if you finish in six years," Raymond Rice, the school's president, told Mainebiz.

He said that 60% of UMPI students at any given time are Pell-eligible, and the vast majority are first-time, full-timers. UMPI is leading the free-tuition move to lure even more of them to the University of Maine System.

"We really wanted to address the needs of those incoming first-time, full-time students to ensure they could complete their studies on time and lower their debt even further so they can go directly into the workforce," Rice said.

In UMPI's home county of Aroostook, he added, "for us to be able to meet the economic workforce needs of our own geographic locale is something we need to pay extreme attention to."

Looking at the bigger picture, UMS Chancellor James H. Page said the free tuition offer fits into the recently launched MaineSpark initiative to "bring more Maine people into the education environment."

"It's really designed to engage with those students who are financially challenged around the cost of higher education, and give them every chance we can to ensure they're going to be successful," he said.

Federal Pell grants are typically awarded to undergraduates who have not earned a bachelor's or professional degree. Unlike a loan, a Pell does not have to be repaid, except under certain circumstances, such as early withdrawal from a program or a change in enrollment status.

While UMA will offer free tuition to eligible transfer students starting next spring, the other three schools will start start doing so for incoming freshmen as of fall 2018, said UMS spokesman Dan Demeritt.


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