State college tuition, dorm costs may rise

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BANGOR (AP) – Students in the University of Maine System face the prospect of an average 8.7 percent increase in tuition and fees and an average 6 percent hike in the cost of room and board.

The increases were proposed Wednesday by Chancellor Joseph Westphal and are expected to be approved by the board of trustees later this month.

The tuition hikes would range from $399 per year at the University of Maine at Fort Kent to $584 at the University of Maine, while the room and board increase would add between $275 and $722 to a dorm student’s annual bill.

The proposed tuition and fee increase, which follows a nearly 8 percent increase last year, was linked by university officials to higher salaries and rising costs of health insurance and energy.

The campuses still face “significant cutting and stretching of budgets,” Westphal told the UMS board of trustees’ finance committee. He said cost increases were unavoidable and cited the need the need to protect academic quality.

The system had sought $5 million from the Legislature to help close a $15 million budget gap, but has thus far been assured of only $2.7 million.

“So we have to come up with the difference through our own cutbacks and through a tuition increase,” said UMS spokesman John Diamond. He said the system will probably have to lay off employees and leave positions unfilled.

Westphal said part of the tuition hike would be used to provide more financial aid. Three out of four UMS students receive some form of financial help, Diamond said.

Even with the proposed increases, the University of Maine would continue to have the lowest full-time tuition and fees among the New England land grant universities, said Joanne Yestramski, the system’s chief financial officer.

Because the share of state support for higher education has been steadily dropping, UMS students are being asked to pay a larger percentage of the system’s operating cost, Westphal said.

Under the current proposal, tuition and fees would amount to 41.9 percent of the system’s $453 million annual budget, while the state appropriation would be 38.3 percent. Other revenue sources include research grants and contracts and income from the sale of goods and services.

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