Free community college to continue in Maine

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Dive Brief:

  • Maine will continue its tuition-free community college program for two more years, state and higher ed leaders announced last week.
  • The Maine Legislature earmarked $15 million for the program in the state’s most recent budget, which Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, signed Tuesday. The budget will preserve the program for students graduating from a Maine high school or earning an equivalent degree in 2024 and 2025.
  • State residents are eligible for two years of free tuition. The initiative began last year as a way to help high school graduates affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dive Insight:

While President Joe Biden has called for nationwide tuition-free community college — most recently in his fiscal 2024 budget proposal — federal action on the idea has stalled. 

But statewide free college programs have continued to flourish, including in Vermont and Michigan.

Maine policymakers launched the free community college program in April 2022 with a one-time $20 million investment. High school graduates from the classes of 2020 through 2023 were eligible, according to the Maine Community College System.

In its first year, 6,400 attended one of the state’s seven community colleges for free, it said.

With the extension, high school graduates in 2024 and 2025 also won’t have to pay tuition or fees, which amount to more than $3,800 per student annually. 

“The scholarship means they won’t have to work multiple jobs while they study or take just one or two classes at a time because they can’t afford more,” system President David Daigler said in a statement. “They’ll have time to focus on learning a trade or becoming a nurse or a police officer or a chef, or pursuing any of the hundreds of degrees or one-year certificates we offer.”

Tuition-free community college is also available to high school students through an early college program, as well as to those enrolled in short-term workforce training programs.


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