Health care costs and the state budget contributed

to the hikes.

PORTLAND (AP) – University of Maine System trustees Monday approved tuition and fee increases averaging 7 percent at the seven campuses, a decision termed unavoidable because of state budget cuts and rising health insurance costs.

For the average full-time student from Maine, the increase amounts to roughly $300 a year; tuition bills for out-of-state residents will jump by about $850.

At the University of Maine’s flagship campus in Orono, the new tuition rates will be $5,914 for residents and $14,614 for nonresidents. The rates for the University of Southern Maine will be $4,938 and $12,648.

The board of trustees also approved higher room and board rates, including $6,156 a year at the University of Maine, a 4 percent increase from last year, and $6,014 at USM, up 4.8 percent.

For the fiscal year that begins July 1, the board approved a $408 million budget to be funded through a combination of state support, cost-cutting measures, increased enrollment and higher tuition.

To help offset the impact of the tuition hikes for the neediest students, the board approved an 8 percent increase in the amount of money set aside for financial aid.

Chancellor Joseph Westphal said the state’s revenue shortfall led to a $9.4 million reduction in the university’s original appropriation for the current year.

In addition, higher employee health care premiums eroded the system’s budget by $14 million in the current year and another $10 million in the fiscal year that begins next month.

“Combined, those factors forced us to abandon any hope of freezing tuition rates at their current levels,” he said.

James Mullen, the board chairman, said the steps already taken to reduce costs include hiring freezes, program eliminations and suspensions and centralization of services.

“The sum and substance of all this is that we have a $23 million hole to fill in the coming fiscal year. The bottom line for us is that some tuition increase is inevitable,” he said.

Trustees emphasized that even with the latest increases, in-state tuition at Orono remained the lowest of any land-grant university in New England and that tuition at the system’s other campuses was lower than at their peer institutions in the six-state region.


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