Tuition for in-state undergraduates in the University of Maine System will not increase for the next two years, as long as the state doesn’t cut its funding.

The UMaine Board of Trustees voted Monday to extend a tuition freeze, which started this year, through the 2014-2015 academic year.

The board made the decision on the condition that, over the next two years, the state provides $176 million in annual funding for education and general operations — its current appropriation.

That funding was cut by $2.3 million last year, according to figures provided by UMaine spokeswoman Peggy Markson.

Chancellor James Page will present the funding request to the state Legislature in January, Markson said.

UMaine officials said the proposal serves several purposes — as an incentive for lawmakers not to cut the system’s budget, as way to help maintain enrollment levels at the state’s universities and as a promise from the board to find savings within the system and not balance its budget on the backs of students.

Foremost, Page said, is the UMaine System’s responsibility to the state’s families to “keep a first-class, public education affordable.”

The average in-state tuition among the system’s seven universities is $7,240, ranging from $6,510 at Augusta to $8,370 at Orono.

Tuition in the 2003-04 academic year — the earliest figures provided by Markson — ranged from $3,690 to $4,710.

Before the board voted earlier this year to freeze in-state tuition and fees for the 2012-2013 academic year, tuition had been increasing since 1987, according to a press release in January.

For the previous decade, tuition had increased, on average, about 7 percent annually.

Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, commended the UMaine board “for recognizing how important the price point is to attract and retain students.”

A member of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee for the past four years, Alfond said the proposal “puts the Legislature, and especially Gov. LePage, in a great position to support higher education to create the skilled workers and critical thinkers that we need to power Maine’s economy.”

“From my perspective, it’s a great offer,” he said.

Adrienne Bennett, spokeswoman for LePage, did not return a call Monday afternoon seeking comment.

on the proposal.

The UMaine board voted on the request for state funding and the tuition freeze at a meeting Monday on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus.

The system will also ask the state for $14.7 million for the Maine Economic Improvement Fund, $3.3 million for debt service and $35,000 for the Casco Bay Estuary Project, according to the press release sent Monday.

Leslie Bridgers — 791-6364

[email protected]

Twitter: lesliebridgers

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