- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The University of Maine System will ask lawmakers in Augusta for more funding so it can maintain a freeze on tuition rates, the board of trustees decided on Monday.

The seven-school system is seeking an increase in state funding from the current $176.2 million to $182.2 million for fiscal year 2016 and $189.1 million for fiscal year 2017.

If the boost is approved by the Legislature and governor, the system says it will be able to maintain for an additional two years a freeze on in-state, undergraduate tuition levels that’s been in place since the 2012-13 school year. If the seven-school system is able to prevent a tuition hike for the fourth year, it will be the longest it has done so since 1969.

In 2012, university system officials and the state agreed to keep funding the state’s seven universities at their current level in exchange for the schools holding tuition levels flat.

Gov. Paul LePage’s office said Monday that it cannot yet say whether it would be able to support a budget increase for the schools. Spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said LePage is pleased with the current tuition cap and believes that savings can be achieved “through reforms related to resources allocation, increased productivity and the elimination of duplicative services.”

Rep. Mattie Daughtry, a Democrat from Brunswick, said ensuring that the tuition freeze stays in place is critical.

“Any increase would be detrimental to the students of Maine,” said Daughtry, a member of the Education Committee and co-chair of a commission that’s examining ways to lower the cost of higher education. “I hope we can find a way to make the best academic opportunities for students while not putting them under mounds and mounds of debt,” she said.

The trustees also voted to scrap the University of Southern Maine’s American and New England studies and geosciences programs as well as the Arts and Humanities program at the Lewiston-Auburn campus - a move that was fiercely opposed by some faculty and students.

The system that has been plagued by flat state funding and declining enrollment is working to close a projected $69 million budget gap by 2019. The nearly $530 million budget approved last year eliminated more than 150 positions and required the system to dip into more than $11 million in emergency funds.

___

Follow Alanna Durkin at https://www.twitter.com/aedurkin

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide