Three years after the University of Maine launched a successful initiative to attract nonresident students with tuition discounts, the number of out-of-state students choosing to come to Maine is dropping as other state universities counter with their own offers.

UMaine saw an jump in out-of-state numbers in 2017, shortly after it launched its “flagship match” program at the Orono campus. Out-of-state enrollment across the system rose 11 percent and was followed by a 4 percent increase last year.

But this year, overall out-of-state enrollment is up less than 1 percent following a 17 percent decrease in out-of-state enrollment by new first-year students.

A competitive response from other schools to the “flagship match,” which offers tuition discounts to qualified students from select states, coupled with a housing crunch at the University of Southern Maine are two reasons overall out-of-state growth has slowed, university officials said Monday, when enrollment figures for 2019-20 were presented to the board of trustees.

“We have schools that are up and schools that are down,” Chancellor Dannel Malloy said. “I don’t think you can call it a trend yet, but we have stepped up efforts to make sure we’re attractive to out-of-state students.”

Across the system, there are currently 29,974 students enrolled on seven campuses, an increase of 0.8 percent compared to 2018. Undergraduate enrollment, at 25,833, is up 0.7 percent in contrast to a national trend toward declines in student enrollment.

At the University of Maine’s flagship campus in Orono, out-of-state enrollment for the freshman class is down by about 21 percent, or 220 students, while in-state enrollment is up 9 percent.

“The flagship match to get out-of-state students was huge in 2017, but by 2018 and 2019, our competitors basically knew exactly what our packages would look like,” said R. Lizzie Wahab, vice president for enrollment management at the University of Maine and University of Maine at Machias.

This year, Wahab said, the university lost a significant number of potential out-of-state students because of the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s expansion into the Boston area with its Mount Ida campus and the University of New Hampshire eliminating its requirement for the SAT or ACT.

“When they went SAT-optional, all the people we had wait-listed or given deferred admission to went for admission to UNH,” Wahab said.

The number of in- and out-of-state students affects tuition revenue.

For in-state students, tuition and fees at the Orono campus, not including room and board, total $11,170. Out-of-state students pay $30,970.

The flagship match allows academically qualified students from select states to pay the same as they would at their state’s flagship campus.

The eligible states currently have higher tuition rates than Maine, which means the students get a discount on out-of-state tuition, but Maine still collects, on average, about $4,500 more than the regular in-state rate per student.

“The increase in in-state students does not cover proportionally the drop in out-of-state students,” Wahab said. “You would have to double the increase in in-state students to match the revenue lost from out-of-state students.”

In-state enrollment at Orono for new students is up thanks to increased outreach to rural areas and efforts to promote affordability, Wahab said.

The University of Southern Maine, the state’s second-largest campus, saw a decrease of almost 13 percent in out-of-state freshmen. That’s despite a 34 percent increase in out-of-state applications, said Jared Cash, vice president of enrollment and marketing at USM.

He said the university is currently at 117 percent occupancy for its on-campus housing and has had to turn some double-occupancy dorm rooms into triples.

“Until we can more appropriately balance out our residency offerings, we’re kind of in a moment where our beds are choking off a lot of the yield we have,” Cash said.

USM has about 1,350 beds at its Gorham campus and no housing at its Portland campus, though a plan for a new 550-bed dorm is being developed.

Despite the drop in new out-of-state students, the university system saw an increase this year in the number of international students enrolled.

International students currently make up about 2 percent of the student population. Of those, about 20 percent come from Canada.

Across the country, colleges and universities have documented a drop in the number of international students since President Trump took office, a trend that has been attributed to nationalist policies and an increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric.

From 2015 to 2018 the number of international students in the UMaine system dropped by almost 26 percent, from 866 students in 2015 to a low last year of 643. That number was up about 8 percent this year to 693.

Wahab, who is originally from Bangladesh, said working with campuses on efforts to diversify is something she had prided herself on in the past.

She said there is a renewed interest in the university system in attracting students from international backgrounds, especially if they have an interest in or connection to areas of study that can boost the Maine economy, like engineering or forestry.

Gov. Janet Mills, Maine’s new governor, also has helped international students feel welcome and at home here, Wahab said.

“We’re blessed to have a governor and a chancellor supporting education in Maine as a destination,” Wahab said. “That really helps us canvass nationally and internationally. … Anything you do will get competition, but I feel like we’re well-positioned to meet that competition and get the right students.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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