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Editorial: UMS tuition increase not necessarily a bad thing

A six-year anomaly in tuition prices will be moving out of favor in the 2017 academic year. The University of Maine system has maintained an unusual six year long tuition freeze, in an effort to combat the national increases of college tuition since the recession hit our country. Compared to national averages, our school has avoided an estimated 13 percent tuition increase behind the safety of this freeze.

This is not the end of a perfect era. It has been widely decided that a college education is expensive in the U.S., but the blow of this tuition increase has been softened by Gov. Paul LePage’s efforts to acquire additional funding. A total $7.6 million has been pledged to the system, of which $4.65 million is directly pledged for tuition. The difference will be put into programs for high school students and pre-law programs.

Maine’s efforts in keeping postsecondary education affordable are record-setting; it is the only state to reduce its public university prices in the past five years, according to a report from March 2016. Universities across the country have been cutting courses and resources, as well as dropping professors for their rosters to relieve the burden of inflation.

Though an increase to a bill may not seem like good news, there are benefits to consider with the end of this freeze. The UMaine system has also been facing budget cuts in numerous departments and staff rosters. We are losing valuable professors and funding for programs, seminars and other services that we expect from a responsible university.

Meanwhile, the condition of campus infrastructure has declined. Last month, the Mahaney Dome deflated due to two tears in its structure. It was re-inflated on Jan. 12 in time for the start of the spring semester, but further repairs and consultation will be necessary. Campus roads face high traffic throughout the year and therefore require maintenance and repairs. Several academic buildings have long overdue repairs in queue.

These are key issues that affect students every day and they also require sometimes significant funding in order for changes to happen. While UMaine did pull in an enormous underclassmen population this academic year, these larger projects will benefit from an increased tuition charge. The increase will help bridge the gap between money coming in and going out of the university.

UMaine has had immunity from the reality of rising tuition prices for six years. The campus is overdue for a price hike, no matter how unpopular it may seem on the surface. Let’s try to take this change in stride and remember the benefits that should come from this decision.

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