UMaine System Getting Rid of Tuition & Fees For Qualified Students

ORONO, Maine (WABI) The University of Maine System announced Wednesday a new plan to help reduce student loan debt.

University leadership say they hope to open new and more affordable pathways to a Maine degree and career.

James Page, Chancellor of the University of Maine System says, "If they are Pell eligible students and they're willing to commit to taking a certain number of credit hours over the course of a calendar year, while maintaining a certain grade point average, then we are prepared to guarantee for those 4 years that the tuition and mandatory fees that are not covered by their Pell grants or other grants and awards that they may have will be covered by those participating Universities 100 percent."

Starting in the Fall of 2018, these first-year qualifying Maine students will be able to attend the University of Maine at Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Augusta or Machias without paying out-of-pocket.

Ray Rice, President of the University of Maine at Presque Isle says, "This is a really important and impactful program on our campus because 60 percent of our students on an average year are Pell recipients. So, they receive federal financial aid. We really wanted to ensure this program because it's important for us that our students graduate on time, within a four year period, because if they do so, they will save about $15,000."

Leaders say re-allocating funds and using existing funding will allow the University System the financial ability to offer this program to future students.

Page says, "This is not something that requires great growth to be successful. We can do it with existing resources."

They say this program is also about helping out the state in the long run.

Page says, "When somebody comes out of a 4-year program and we want them to stay here in the state of Maine, with few exceptions, if they're burdened with $30,000-$40,000 in student debt, that prevents them from becoming full members of the economic community, and it delays it for a long time. We have to, not just for the good of the students and their families, but for the good of the communities and the businesses they work for. This needs to be a priority."

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