Ripley Biggs Contributing Writer
Recently the University of Maine System (UMS) announced that they are unveiling a new initiative called “Maine Values You,” to bring more students to UMS institutions. This will proactively reach out to members of the graduating high school classes of 2020 who will be attending a UMS institution, aiming to cover all tuition and fees for more than 1,200 of these students, according to a recent UMS press release.
The message, which will be seen on television and social media, is coming from UMS newly appointed Chancellor Dannel Malloy, formerly the Governor of Connecticut, who outlines the work the System has been doing over the past six years to make Maine’s Public Universities affordable to everyone. This affordability has been attained by tuition and fees being capped for the past six years, with increases only being made to keep up with inflation.
In addition, more financial aid has been made available to Maine students to help make paying for college less of a burden if they attend a public university. By attending a state-supported school, students owe about $4,000 a year less than their peers who chose to attend one of Maine’s private universities or who choose to go out of state.
The deal is even better for those attending the University of Maine Augusta, Fort Kent, Presque Isle or Machias. Through the tuition guarantee program of each of these four UMS locations, qualified and eligible in-state, full-time, first-year students will not pay any out-of-pocket expenses for tuition and fees.
According to UMS Executive Director of Public Affairs, Dan Demeritt, “The gap between the cost of higher education and the student’s ability to pay for that education using full financial aid in the form of grants and scholarships has gotten smaller.”
In fact, the high school class of 2018 saw 1,142 freshmen, which was 40% of the incoming freshman class to UMS schools, receiving a high-quality education free from all tuition and fee charges. The “Maine Values You” initiative was formed in order to formally build on the success that UMS has seen for the students with the most need.
Last year $11 million in scholarship money was collected from alumni, civic organizations and other Maine businesses.
In the aforementioned press release, Jack Ryan, President of Wright-Ryan Construction in Portland as well as University of Southern Maine (USM) Foundation Board member and UMS community donor, stated, “Education is the best investment money can buy. . . initiatives like USM’s Promise Scholarship [helps] underserved young achievers from Maine the chance they deserve to attend and graduate college with little or no student debt.”
UMF President Edward Serna is supportive of the “Maine Values You” initiative, as he said, “The commitment to cover tuition and fees for 1,200 new Maine students next fall is another important way we can put the power of a UMF education — and all the benefits it provides — within reach of Maine students and their families.”
As the money from this initiative will be going only to the incoming class of Fall 2020, current UMS students will not be able to access this funding. However, the younger siblings of current students may be able to take advantage of this program.
The first step to receiving this aid is filling out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) which is the form completed by current and prospective college students in the U.S. to determine eligibility for financial aid.
According to the Finance Authority of Maine, as cited by the UMS press release, 2,595 Maine students did not complete the FAFSA which resulted in over $10 million in Pell Grants left unused (Pell Grants being federal student loans that don’t require a repayment from the student).
The UMS hopes the “Maine Values You” program will encourage every Maine student to at least fill out the form even if they don’t think they are college-bound. “We hope to meet the need for as many students as we can, for as long as we can,” said Demeritt.