USM is planning to revise language in its tuition policy that states the school could change tuition rates and fees “anytime,” according to Chief Financial Officer Dick Campbell.

The University of Maine System Board of Trustees sets tuition and other fee policies that are supposedly universal across all seven schools in the system, but not every university has the same policy posted regarding when tuition and fees may be adjusted. Five university websites state that, “the applicant acknowledges this reservation by the submission of an application for admission or by registration.” USM’s does not.

“Anytime does in fact mean anytime,” said Campbell.

USM and the University of Maine at Augusta’s websites share that tuition and fees may be increased at “anytime” while the University of Maine, the University of Maine at Farmington, University of Maine at Presque Isle and University of Maine at Fort Kent say differently. According to UMFK’s website, tuition and fees cannot be altered after the “first day of classes for a given academic term,” while UM, UMPI, and UMF say that tuition and fees cannot be raised after the date of “final registration for a given term.”  The University of Maine at Machias acknowledges that tuition and fees will increase.

“I am not exactly sure about where that language on the websites came from, but they aren’t stating the board’s policy,” said Rebecca Wyke, the UMS vice chancellor of finance. When asked why universities have their own policies, Wyke said, “Each university is allowed to phrase information how they find fit, but the BOT’s policies are what goes.” According to Wyke, that policy is “the board may alter any of these [pricing] rates at its discretion.”

She could not say why the discrepancies emerged, only that they happened before her appointment.

“I understand this is an important concern and it will certainly be added as an agenda item for the bi-monthly meeting of all university CFOs,” she said.

Campbell was unaware of the wording on the website until a reporter for the Free Press asked him about it. He said he would update it this week.

“Mid-year fee increases are not unprecedented, but have only happened as temporary measures during extraordinary times,” he said.

This year tuition increased for USM instate students by 4.8 percent and 2.5 percent for out-of-state students for both graduate and undergraduate study. A Maine full-time undergraduate student who enrolled in the fall of 2008 paid $1,320 less in tuition than they do today.

The UMS New Challenges New Directions report released in November 2009 planned for tuition and fees to increase 6 percent for the next two academic years. But the Board of Trustees submitted a request on Sept. 14 seeking an increase in state appropriation. If approved, tuition will increase 3 percent each year over the next two academic years.

Bob Caswell, USM spokesman, said he doesn’t know the range of tuition increases if UMS is not granted more state funding. “If there is a sense that USM students need more information, then I think as an institution it is our obligation,” said Caswell on how students know tuition will increase.

Both Wyke and Campbell repeatedly said that there are no tuition or fee increases planned except for those to be voted on at the May BOT meeting.

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