The University of Maine System is seeing a jump in enrollment from both in-state and out-of-state students, registering an overall increase of 2.5 percent after a slight dip last fall.

There are now 29,735 students enrolled in the system, officials said Thursday.

Out-of-state enrollment is up 4.3 percent to a total of 5,972 students, and in-state enrollment is up 2.1 percent – notable given that in-state enrollment was down 3.5 percent last fall.

Recruiting Maine students has been a challenge in recent years for the university system because the state’s graying demographics means there are fewer and fewer high school graduates. The system has traditionally drawn the vast majority of its student body from Maine.

“Maine’s universities are keeping more Maine residents here at home and attracting record numbers of out-of-state students to our state,” system Chancellor James H. Page said in a prepared statement Thursday. A more detailed enrollment report will be reviewed by the system’s board of trustees at its November meeting.

The system has been sharply focused on recruiting in recent years, trying to recover from severe financial turmoil and enrollment declines that started about 10 years ago.

The increase in enrollment comes after the trustees approved a second tuition hike in two years this May, bringing in-state tuition, fees, and room and board to $17,986 a year at the flagship campus in Orono. Out-of-state students – who generally pay about three times as much as Mainers for tuition alone – saw an increase of about the same amount, for a total of about $38,000 at the Orono campus.

The Orono campus saw a slight decline of 1 percent in in-state students, but a 6 percent increase in out-of-state students – who now make up 36 percent of the student body.

The University of Southern Maine, the second-largest campus, had the opposite trend: a 5 percent uptick in in-state students, and no change in the number of out-of-state students. Last year, USM had an 18 percent increase in the number of out-of-state students, in part because of a new discounted regional tuition offer for students from New Hampshire and Vermont.

USM says the increase in in-state students is likely because of a jump in the amount of money made available for financial aid – doubling from $8 million to $16 million in the past three years.

“We have some excellent academic programs, but we weren’t at the right price point,” said Nancy Griffin, vice president of enrollment management. The increase in aid, she said, “that’s made all the difference.”

UMaine-Augusta, which has usually attracted older students, saw a 19 percent jump in out-of-state students, from 165 last year to 197 this year. That was because of several factors, said Jon Henry, vice president of enrollment management and marketing.

The campus offers aviation and architecture programs that tend to draw more out-of-state students, and it saw a big increase in students seeking its online cybersecurity degree, which also attracts a large number of out-of-state students, Henry said. In addition, UMaine-Augusta enrolled seven new out-of-state students into the Veterinary Technology Program – transfers from the now-closed Mount Ida College in Massachusetts.

UMaine-Augusta, along with the campuses in Presque Isle, Fort Kent and Machias, all launched a new zero tuition program for some students. The “Pine Tree Pledge” eliminates out-of-pocket tuition and fees for any first-year Maine student who qualifies for a need-based federal Pell grant. Qualifying students, who must maintain a certain number of credits each year and good grades, pay their Pell grant money toward tuition and fees and do not have to pay any outstanding balance.

Overall, UMaine-Augusta enrollment increased 3 percent, from 4,014 students to 4,128.

UMaine-Presque Isle saw a 12 percent increase in its in-state enrollment and a 4 percent dip in out-of-state students, for an overall increase of 10 percent, to 1,554 students this fall.

At UMaine-Farmington, overall enrollment dipped 2 percent to 2,040 students; at Fort Kent, overall enrollment is up 2 percent, to 1,794 students. At UMaine-Machias, now a regional campus of UMaine, enrollment dipped 4 percent to 675 students.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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