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Enrollment is up at Maine's community colleges this fall

After a few years of decline, enrollment at Maine's community colleges is up 12% this fall.

The increase follows passage of a $20 million initiative from Gov. Janet Mills earlier this year to provide free tuition and fees for high school graduates from the classes of 2020 through 2023. The system says that about a third of this year's students are eligible for the program.

All seven of Maine's community colleges saw an enrollment increase, but the largest growth was at campuses in northern and eastern Maine.

Meanwhile, the fall headcount at the University of Maine System is down about 5% compared to last year — in line with a recent nationwide enrollment drop in higher education.