AUGUSTA – Tuition will increase slightly this fall at the state’s seven community colleges, school officials announced Friday. The increase of $2 per credit hour will result in an additional $60 for a full-time in-state student, with tuition rising from $2,580 to $2,640 per year.

“Our challenge is to continue to maintain a high-quality education that is affordable for Maine people. It is an increasingly difficult balancing act, and we regret even this modest increase,” said Kris Doody, chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Maine Community College System. She noted that enrollment at the schools has increased 25 percent in the past five years, while the state appropriation has increased 2.4 percent.

More than 18,500 students are currently enrolled in Maine’s seven community colleges.

Earlier this year, a report by the New England Board of Higher Education that calculated tuition and fees found that Maine’s community colleges had the lowest average rates among two-year schools in the region, coming in at $3,287 this year.

In-state rates at Maine’s two-year schools have risen 7 percent in the last five years, compared with a  29 percent increase at the state’s four-year universities, according to the report.

“The board remains committed to keeping our tuition the lowest in New England as long as Maine is the poorest state in the region,” Doody said.

Maine’s public four-year universities had the second-lowest in-state tuition and fee rates in New England, the report found.

Earlier this week, the University of Maine System’s board of trustees voted to again freeze tuition and fees at the system’s seven universities. Tuition and fees for 2013-14 will remain at the level set in 2011-12, ranging from $7,300 at the University of Maine at Presque Isle to $10,600 at the University of Maine in Orono for a full-time undergraduate student.

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