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The UMaine System says its budget situation is improving, after years of shortfalls

Fogler Library on the University of Maine at Orono campus.
via flickr
Fogler Library on the University of Maine at Orono campus.

The University of Maine System is reporting an improved budget situation, after years of deficits and declining enrollment.

The system's vice president for finance, Ryan Low, told the system board's finance committee on Wednesday that for the first time since 2014, all campuses are projected to balance their budgets for the next fiscal year without relying on system reserves. Two campuses — the University of Maine at Augusta and the University of Maine at Presque Isle — are expecting an operating budget surplus.

"I don't want to suggest that we don't have challenges. But the campuses have really stepped up and presented what I think are some really strong budgets," Low said.

Low said enrollment is projected to stay flat next year, which he viewed as a positive, after recent decreases. Residence hall occupancy is expected to rise, and the system is also projected to receive nearly $10 million increase in appropriations from the state.

The budget proposal is calling for a tuition increase of about 3% for in-state undergraduate students. When combined with mandatory fees, room and board, the system estimates total costs would increase by nearly 5% systemwide, and by nearly 6% at the University of Maine at Orono.

Even with the yearly increase, Low said that tuition rates have actually declined recently, when taking inflation into account.

"When adjusted for inflation, over the last five years, tuition is actually down by about 6%," Low said.

The system is expected to vote on the budget proposal in May.