ORONO – Nearly a quarter of all Maine residents in the University of Maine System are going to school for free this spring semester. That’s according to an announcement Tuesday by UMaine chancellor James Page and the Presidents of Maine’s public universities.
The cost of education both in time and dollars can be great, and UMaine is helping ease the financial burden for its in-state students.
“The university of Maine System and of course the University of Maine are providing for our students and we’re hearing great examples of how that’s making a difference in their lives,” said UMaine and UMaine at Machias President Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy.
That support is helping students like Courtney Hatton finish their degrees. She returned to school after spending eleven years in the work force.
“This past year has been completely financed on scholarships through the help of UMaine alumni and the scholarships through the University of Maine System,” said Hatton.
According to UMaine System officials, 4,077 Maine students are attending one of Maine’s eight public universities this spring, free of tuition and fee expenses. More than half of that aid is being awarded in the form of grants, scholarships and waivers.
“The entire system has been really engaged in trying to up those percentages and here at UMaine we’ve seen a big increase in the past seven years or so, from about 30 million to 60 million [dollars] that’s available through the system part of the financial aid and then on top of that of course, really working with our University of Maine Foundation, to make sure the scholarship aid we provide is equally strong,” said Dr. Ferrini-Mundy.
Over the past five years, tuition and fee costs for the UMaine System’s eight universities has increased by less than one percent. That’s the smallest price increase compared to public higher education in the other five New England states, which helps keep Mainers in Maine schools.
“I’m taking my passion for the outdoors and the ocean and then combining that with a true academic background,” said UMaine student Bentley Simpson.
Affordability may be what’s attracting students to Maine’s universities, but President Ferrini-Mundy hopes the experience helps keep them here.
“It gives these students an opportunity to consider staying in Maine or come back to Maine and to bring all that they’ve benefited from in their university experience to the community of Maine and make a difference here,” she said.