ORONO — The University of Maine System Board of Trustees directed officials Monday to craft the system’s 2016 budget without increasing in-state tuition.

That commitment came in spite of the system’s plan to dip into its reserves to the tune of about $9 million to cover a projected budget gap and fund some one-time expenses.

A tuition freeze would make fiscal year 2016 the fourth consecutive year without an in-state tuition increase at Maine’s public universities, and continues the system’s commitment to ensure Maine families can afford an education, trustees said.

“Despite the financial pressures on the university that result from rising costs and declining enrollments, the board is committed to keeping tuition accessible for our students,” Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Rebecca Wyke told the trustees during Monday’s meeting at the University of Maine.

The system estimates it will spend $519 million in fiscal year 2016, down about $10 million from the previous year, according to budget documents.

Gov. Paul LePage’s proposed biennial budget includes a 1.7 percent, or $3 million, increase in the system’s state appropriation, followed by a 1.9 percent increase the next year.


What hasn’t increased is Mainers’ ability to pay for their education, according to the system. The median household income in Maine for 2011-2013 was just under $50,500, about $2,500 less than what it was at pre-recession levels in 2007.

The weighted average of tuition and fees would eat up about 18 percent of that $50,500 median income, according to Wyke.

The tuition freeze and projected system budget are largely contingent on whether LePage’s proposed budget holds up under the legislative process.

Trustees will vote on that budget and the accompanying flat tuition proposal during their meeting in May.

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