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UMaine System Plans To Waive Tuition For First-Year Students At Some Campuses

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A.J. Higgins
/
Maine Public
UMaine Presque Isle President Raymond Rice, left, and University of Maine System Chancellor James Page at a Bangor press conference Wednesday.

Beginning next year, first-year Maine students who qualify for federal Pell grants can attend the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Augusta and Machias without being on the hook for tuition or student fees.

University of Maine Presque Isle President Raymond Rice says his school, and others in the UMaine System, are already doing a lot to reduce student debt, but it's still significantly higher then they'd like.

"If you finish in 4 years right now, you probably have incurred about $20,000 in debt - if you finish in 6, that's $35,000," Raymond says. "So this is something really geared to reduce that even further."

Students must commit to taking at least 30 credits per year and maintaining a 2.0 GPA.

The plan is intended to increase student enrollment at those schools - and reduce student loans. Rice also says it's part of an effort to deal with Maine's workforce shortage, and aging population, by keeping young people in the state.

UMaine System officials say it could eventually expand the plan to other University of Maine campuses.