The University of Maine System has announced this month its new student outreach campaign, “Maine Values You,” which aims to both improve the educational quality at each of the state university system’s seven campuses and the affordability of each institution’s tuition for local Maine students.

A combination of investment in financial aid, state funding allocation and donor generosity have made Maine’s public universities nearly four times less expensive than the private institutions located in the state, and will next year, if no changes are made to the state budget, allow the University of Maine System to entirely fund the college tuition and fees of more than 1,200 incoming students.

Last semester, the University of Maine System was able to finance the tuition and fee obligations of 4,077 students — nearly a quarter of the 16,718 that were enrolled during the spring of 2019. Increases in both gift aid and state funding to Maine’s university system over the last five years have allowed for the creation and support of many new and existing scholarship opportunities, thereby reducing dependence on student loans which once amounted to more than half of UMaine students’ financial aid.

“The University of Maine System is backed by more than $400 million in public investment, research funding and donors who give generously to support our institutions and students,” Dannel Malloy, chancellor of the University of Maine System, said in a press statement. “We can proudly offer Maine students unmatched affordability and access to the state’s most highly-credentialed faculty and the most accredited academic programs and pathways to careers and advanced degrees.”

Many of the currently enrolled students across Maine’s public university system are already receiving some form of financial aid, whether from state and federal grants, such as the Maine State Grant and Pell Grant, or private scholarships. Glenn Cummings, the president of the University of Southern Maine, noted during an announcement of the “Maine Values You” initiative that students in the University of Maine System receive upwards of $11 million in private scholarships each year, and that the number of first-year students who are assisted by such scholarships has risen by nearly 20%.

“Maine’s public university students enjoy the support of the state’s largest network of alumni and stakeholders,” Cummings explained. “Private scholarships help keep the cost of college within the reach of thousands of our students and their families. We are very grateful.”

Although more than four out of the average ten incoming first-year students who complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, are likely to have their tuition entirely accounted for by State and federal grants, only 63% of last year’s Maine high school seniors actually completed the application. Over $10 million in Federal Pell Grant funds were consequently left unused by UM students.

One of the new outreach campaign’s other objectives, which is being called “Maine Values Experience,” is to provide every student in the University of Maine System with the opportunity to engage in experiential learning, or learning based on experience and observation. The University of Southern Maine at Portland has already integrated such learning into its curriculum and has provided over 1,500 of its students with more than 200 academic-accredited internships during the 2018-19 school year. To achieve a similar integration of experiential learning, the University of Maine Orono and its sister campus in Machias have announced a complementary pilot initiative to expand their use of the learning form, which the two campuses hope will strengthen the academic programs they offer and better prepare their students for the job market.

“Experience matters,” Joan Ferrini-Mundy, the president of the University of Maine, Orono, commented. “Great efforts already being led by our faculty show that experiential learning improves the richness of study for our students and demonstrates to employers that our graduates are career-ready at the time of hire. With more than $100 million in research activity and a statewide service mission, the University of Maine System is already the state leader in providing students with high-impact experiential learning opportunities. Our commitment to preparing the knowledge and innovation workforce for Maine will include having the tools across the system to make an internship or service, research or creation of knowledge experience available to every student.”

To apply for financial aid through FAFSA, students and their families can visit FAFSA.gov, which is now allowing applications for the 2020-2021 academic year. Further information on college tuition and financial assistance can be learned by either contacting or visiting the website of the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), at 800.228.3734 and www.famemaine.com.