The University of Maine System announced on Tuesday that nearly a quarter of in-state undergrads at its public universities are receiving enough grants and scholarships to entirely cover their tuition and fees this semester.
It’s unclear how those numbers compare to past years, as officials say this was the first year they were calculated. However, Chancellor James Page says they reflect a growing trend across the system: putting more money internally toward grants and scholarships and reducing the amount of student borrowing.
“So what we’ve been able to do is shift our monies that are available to us away from a lot of administrative and other costs, and shift them into student aid,” he says.
Two years ago, the system announced that students eligible for federal Pell grants wouldn’t be required to spend any out-of-pocket costs on tuition and fees at four of Maine’s smaller university campuses. However, the aid doesn’t cover room and board, which averages about $9,000.
Page says there’s still substantial work ahead. In 2017, the average Maine university graduate left school with more than $31,000 in debt, the 10th-highest rate in the country.
“So until those issues are solved, we’ll have more work to do. But I think we’re well on the way towards showing how that’s going to be solved,” he says.
The university system’s board of trustees has also increased tuition over the past few years, though officials say tuition costs have been rising more slowly in Maine than in other New England states.