While there will be fewer first-time and transfer students in the University of Maine system this fall, more of them are coming from outside the state and paying higher tuition — good news for the cash-strapped system.

Commitments from out-of-state students, who pay nearly three times the in-state tuition, are up 12 percent systemwide over the same period last year, according to the latest fall enrollment report issued Aug. 10. Overall applications to the system were up about 10 percent.

“Maine is doing great on out-of-state numbers,” said Rosa Redonnett, the chief student affairs officer for the system.

A total of 1,511 out-of-state students will attend the system’s seven campuses, 162 more than last year.

The system’s two biggest campuses, University of Maine in Orono and University of Southern Maine, both added about 16 percent more out-of-state students to their rolls, according to the report.

Orono has 941 new out-of-state students this fall who pay $27,970 in tuition and fees compared with $10,700 for in-state students. That means that group alone is bringing in about $26.3 million in tuition and fees compared with $10 million if they paid in-state rates.

USM has 282 new out-of-state students paying $21,280 compared with $8,920 for in-state students. They’re bringing in $6 million compared with $2.5 million if they paid in-state rates.

Targeting out-of-state students from across the country and overseas is a critical component of increasing revenue in Maine and other public universities, which faced deep cuts in state subsidies during the recession and are only now beginning to see increases in state allocations. But it’s getting tougher to recruit those students, since every state is essentially poaching one another’s high school graduates.

“There is not a campus that is not stepping this up nationwide. It’s intensely competitive,” Redonnett said.

University and state officials also are realizing they have to provide incentives to keep the in-state students they have, Redonnett said.

“More and more states are beefing up their in-state scholarships to keep their in-state students,” Redonnett said, adding that financial aid in Maine has been relatively unchanged for more than a decade.

Maine schools have had a recent advantage because tuition has been frozen since 2011, when state officials agreed not to cut higher education funding. That has been a powerful recruitment tool, officials say.

But more state funding is needed, and UMS officials have said they will seek additional money in upcoming legislative sessions.

“States are being more strategic,” Redonnett said. “It can’t just rest on the back of the institution; there has to be state policy and an adequate investment in the institution.”

The UMaine system has faced significant deficits for years, and each of the seven campuses already has made deep budget cuts. The latest system budget of $529 million, approved in May, cut 157 positions and required $11.4 million in emergency funds to close a $36 million deficit that officials said was caused by flat state funding, declining enrollment and tuition freezes.

Officials have said more cuts will be needed to head off future deficits. The system faces a projected deficit of $69 million in 2019.

Overall, enrollment commitments from new students are down 2.9 percent compared to the same time last year, dipping about 1.5 percent at both USM and Orono. The enrollment report is considered preliminary and final figures won’t be released until mid-October. The numbers are considered solid estimates for campuses such as Orono and Farmington, which enroll more traditional students, while campuses such as USM and Augusta, with more non-traditional students, tend to see a late surge of students enrolling nearer the first day of classes after Labor Day.

In-state enrollment systemwide is down about 5 percent, reflecting the state’s demographic trend of fewer high school graduates. However, overall applications were up 10 percent, from 22,811 to 25,050.

The enrollment data are being closely watched as system officials fight a stubborn string of budget deficits brought on by flat funding, the tuition freeze and declining enrollments. The 2013-2014 budget closed a $42 million shortfall, and the year before, a gap of $43 million. Since 2007, the system has reduced its workforce by more than 650 full-time equivalent employees.

Enrollments are down at five of the seven campuses, with the smallest campuses — Machias and Fort Kent — showing increases.

UMaine Machias, the smallest campus in the system, has a 22 percent increase in first-time and transfer students. That’s the result of intense recruitment under Melvin Adams, who was brought in a year ago to take over a combined position of dean of students and admissions. Adams scoured federal data and used Facebook data to sell Machias’ marine biology program to would-be students in coastal states and the Great Lakes area. He also launched “pie nights” at area high schools to help students with applications or financial aid forms to any college, sent out personalized acceptance letters and showed up last spring at the high school graduation ceremonies for incoming freshmen to present them with scholarship certificates.

“They spent a lot of time honing their message and working really aggressively with the sending schools in their area,” Redonnett said.

This fall, UMaine Machias expects 226 first-time and transfer students, up from 185.

Officials at Fort Kent, up 1.3 percent, say they expanded their recruitment overseas to attract students to their nursing program.

Noel K. Gallagher — 791-6387

[email protected]

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