Community college students face 2.4 percent tuition increase

Posted May 09, 2011, at 9:27 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Students attending Maine’s seven community colleges can expect to pay a little bit more for tuition beginning this summer.

Trustees of the Maine Community College System voted unanimously to support a 2.4 percent increase on Monday during a meeting at the system office in Augusta. That will mean that in-state students will pay $86 per credit hour, up from $84. Full-time tuition for a Maine student taking 30 credit hours will rise by $60, to $2,580 a year.

“We worked hard to have the lowest tuition in New England, and we still are the lowest tuition in New England,” John Fitzsimmons, MCCS president, said Monday afternoon. “This modest tuition increase seeks to strike a balance between the financial health of our institutions and our students’ ability to pay.”

Out-of-state tuition will increase $4 to $172 per credit hour, or $5,160 for a full-time student, according to a press release from the community college system.

About 75 percent of students are on financial aid, the president said.

Fitzsimmons said he feels fortunate that Gov. Paul LePage proposed to flat-fund the community college system in his biennial budget. But that still has left system officials faced with the challenge of trying to pay for the cost of living increases in the budget.

The tuition hike will generate $700,000 for the system, but there is still a $1.6 million deficit that must be addressed, Fitzsimmons said.

“Each of the colleges are developing their own plans” to make up the difference, he said. “It may lead to some layoffs and reduction of some services. Again, in this very tough economy, we are appreciative that the state budget held flat.”

According to Fitzsimmons, the community college system will close the deficit gap before classes start in the fall.

“If you don’t address it early, you’ll only compound it later in the year,” he said.

Enrollment that has grown for 21 straight years has helped offset the financial challenge a little bit, according to the president.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Fitzsimmons said, adding that he anticipates the enrollment trend will continue.

There are 18,000 students who attend the campuses located in Presque Isle, Calais, Bangor, Fairfield, Auburn, South Portland and Wells.

Since 2003, when the system made a transition from technical to community colleges, enrollment for students seeking degrees increased 76 percent.

According to Bangor Daily News archives, community college tuition has increased more than 20 percent overall since 2005, although it was frozen in 2010.

In 2005, tuition went up $6 per credit hour, and in 2006, it increased $4 per credit hour. In each of the next three years, tuition increased $2 per credit hour.

Before 2005, students had not had a tuition increase in six years.

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