The Way It Should Be program part of overarching effort at UMPI to expand affordable access, promote four-year degree completion, and support transition to Maine workforce
The University of Maine at Presque Isle is taking a bold step toward college affordability and accessibility for Maine students and families, and strengthening its commitment to on-time degree completion and the needs of the Maine workforce, with the announcement today of The Way It Should Be, the state’s first comprehensive program that provides free and significantly reduced tuition for eligible Maine families. First-time, full-time college students who are Maine residents and Pell Grant-eligible will be able to take advantage of free tuition and no fees, saving them nearly $8,000 per year, while other Maine students may be eligible for $3,084 or more in financial aid packaging, which would reduce their tuition and fee costs by nearly 40 percent or more.
“We are so pleased to be able to offer UMPI’s The Way It Should Be program to students throughout Maine and provide them with a financial aid package that will allow them to graduate in four years paying just a fraction of what they might otherwise end up paying for their college education,” UMPI President Ray Rice said. “This program is truly about the way it should be—keeping Maine students in Maine, supporting economic and workforce development by helping students find a Maine career in a Maine community after graduation, and ensuring that when they leave our campus, they do so with the lowest debt possible.”
The Way It Should Be is a major component of the University’s Finish in Four initiative, and is expected to keep students on track by incentivizing them to complete 30 credits per academic year. Coupled with UMPI’s career-focused curriculum—UMPI has the highest percentage of students per total population who engage in service learning/internships and research across the University of Maine System—and learning outcomes that align with workforce expectations, the program will help to prepare Maine students to serve as the next generation of Maine professionals.
The Way It Should Be program joins a growing number of free tuition college programs taking shape across the country and is key in the University of Maine System’s efforts to meet the needs of Maine’s graduating high school population.
When Joel Wincowski, architect for UMaine’s Flagship Match, came to UMPI to help define its enrollment strategy, he said it didn’t take him long to see that meeting the needs of Maine students was truly UMPI’s niche: “UMPI has an incredible commitment to Maine’s students,” he said. “You can see it in the way it already provides a high quality and affordable education. You can see it in the way it provides internships and research opportunities. And by strengthening that commitment in a way that is unprecedented in Maine, President Rice has identified this campus as the place for Maine students to get a degree and get right into the Maine workforce, and that’s the way it should be.”
The Way It Should Be program includes two awards: the Free For Four Award guarantees that first-time, full-time Pell Grant-eligible students from Maine will receive an annual financial aid package of $7,884, which covers the cost of tuition and fees for the academic year. With the program’s For Maine Families Award, similar Maine students who are not Pell-eligible and have an Expected Family Contribution of $20,000 or less may be eligible to receive an annual financial aid package of $3,084 or more. Both of these awards are based on the completion of 30 credit hours per academic year.
The University has provided similar financial aid awards for many years to its students and is able to present this unique offering to Maine Pell and non-Pell eligible students by investing its financial aid resources strategically. Pell Grants are awarded to students who haven’t already received a Bachelor’s degree and have a demonstrated financial need. Pell eligibility involves many different variables, including income, expenses, cost of attendance, and family size.
“According to the Finance Authority of Maine, 50 percent of Maine students who apply for financial aid are eligible for a Pell Grant, and at UMPI, that number is over 60 percent, so we know we’re meeting an important need with this program,” President Rice said. “And we’re strengthening our commitment to these students by providing them with a college pathway that allows them to stay in Maine and achieve their career goals in an extremely affordable way.”
The University has established several parameters in order for students to participate in the program. Applicants must be in-state, first-time, full-time students who will start college at UMPI during the Fall 2018 semester and complete 15 credits per term, delivered by UMPI (at least 30 credits each year). Applicants need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and complete a financial aid application at UMPI by March 31. Open to U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens, applicants must be residents of Maine who have lived in the state for 12 continuous months prior to acceptance at UMPI; be graduates from a Maine high school (or earned a high school equivalency diploma); meet all other general eligibility requirements of the Federal Title IV Financial Aid Programs; and maintain a GPA of 2.0 while at UMPI.
The Way It Should Be program follows other UMPI cost-saving initiatives meant to serve students and ensure they can graduate with the lowest debt possible. Three years ago, out-of-state and international students saw a 40% reduction in their tuition rate after UMPI simplified its tuition structure. They now pay just $11,995 in tuition and fees. In addition, UMPI has established a Transfer Achievement Scholarship, providing $2,000 scholarships for students directly transferring from other colleges, in-state and out-of-state. Just last month, UMPI announced its flat-tuition, $2,000 per semester online Competency-Based Education Business Administration Bachelor’s degree program, specifically designed for adult learners. And, earlier this month, UMPI again received a top ranking from U.S. News and World Report as one of the top Regional Colleges in the North for graduates with least debt; UMPI was ranked #3 in this category, which was based on schools whose Class of 2016 graduated with the lightest debt load.
“In recent years, we’ve shown our commitment to our out-of-state and international students and our adult learners, and we felt now was the time to reaffirm our commitment to our Maine students,” President Rice said. “With this program, education in the State of Maine is now affordable for everyone at UMPI. And the opportunity for internships and research that lead to successful job placement is one of our greatest strengths. Bringing those two elements together is something we can’t wait to share with the people of Maine.”