PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Leaders of the University of Maine System will weigh a $540 million budget for the next fiscal year on Monday. That budget includes the first tuition bump in six years, bringing an end to an unusual streak among public higher education institutions in the U.S.
The system’s board of trustees is scheduled to meet for its regular two-day meeting on May 21 and 22 at the University of Maine in Presque Isle.
The system expects expenses for Fiscal Year 2018 to increase 4 percent over the current budget, but also expects to see a revenue increase of $20.5 million to keep pace.
More than half that revenue comes from student tuition, which under this budget would see its first increase for in-state students in six years. The inflation-based tuition hikes range from 2.5 percent at the flagship campus in Orono to 5 percent at the University of Maine at Augusta.
The weighted cost of attending Maine universities would increase by just under 3 percent, to $19,074. The annual in-state tuition rate at UMaine is increasing from $8,370 to $8,580, while three of the system’s smaller campuses in Fort Kent, Machias and Presque Isle will see their annual tuition increase to $6,840. Rates for out-of-state students, which typically are about three times that of Maine students, also will be seeing an increase.
The flat tuition rate over the past six years has been unusual among Maine’s peer institutions in other states, bucking a trend of increasing education costs across the country. Maine, Washington and California were the only states in the nation where public universities saw an inflation-adjusted decrease in tuition and fees over the past five years, according to the College Board, which tracks tuition rate changes across the country.
UMS has said it plans to pump that revenue into new investments on campuses, most of which have a backlog in maintenance and infrastructure projects, or have seen cuts to programs in recent years.
The biggest spending increase is in personnel, with 32 net positions added across the system, mostly at the Orono campus and the University of Southern Maine.
UMS also expects to see a $1.65 million boost in its state appropriation under the 2018 budget.
Also during the weekend meeting, the board expects to release details about the system’s partnership with a food aggregator based in Northern Maine that will help the system’s campuses reach a goal of locally sourcing 20 percent of the food sold on campus by the year 2020.
That 20 percent commitment equates to about $1.7 million in local food purchases, according to system officials, which spends about $8.6 million per year feeding students and staff.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.