USM President Selma Botman officially announced the $1 million increase in student financial aid the university will provide to incoming high school students next fall at a press conference in the lobby of Payson Smith Hall in Portland today.
Botman said the additional aid, which will come in the form of scholarships, will go to high school students of academic promise and merit and financial need. The additional funds are on top of the $7 million of university funds USM provides in financial aid each year.
“We’re very conscious of the debt load of our students, and we are committed to reducing it,” Botman said. “We’ve decided this is an important time to do it. The economy, as we all know, is challenging for Maine families, challenging for families across the U.S. If not now, in this environment, then when should we do it?”
University officials anticipate the $1 million will go 83 additional incoming students based on their high school class rank, SAT and ACT scores and their financial need. Botman said the university will also look at students of color, underserved students and first-generation students when providing the scholarships.
The additional university funds will come from unallocated sources that will be redirected from facility and personnel costs, as well at utilities, to come up with the $1 million.
Although the redistribution has not been determined, Botman called it an “iron-clad commitment” that the university will find the $1 million for the additional scholarships.
Botman said USM students graduate with a $26,000 debt burden on average, and 85 percent of students are provided some type of financial aid. She said the additional funds reflect the university’s commitment to having students graduate with the lowest debt possible.