USM to lower dorms costs and seeks to freeze out-of-state tuition

Chelsea Ellis

Posted on April 09, 2012 in News
By Noah Hurowitz

Residential and out-of-state students at the University of Southern Maine could be getting some relief in their wallets next year.

Making efforts to fill the residence halls in Gorham and increase enrollment across the board, USM will be offering reduced room rates and will seek approval from the University of Maine System Board of Trustees to freeze out-of-state tuition at 2011-2012 levels.

The board of trustees froze in-state tuition across all seven University of Maine schools at its meeting in January. But USM spokesperson Judie Alessi O’Malley said administrators at USM were immediately thereafter interested in freezing tuition rates for out-of-state undergraduates and in-state and out-of-state graduate students. Any freeze in graduate school tuition will not affect the University of Maine School of Law.

Dick Campbell, the top financial officer at USM, said the university is seeking the tuition freezes in order to help stem a decade-long decline in enrollment at USM.

“We felt that the best way to hopefully maintain affordability and to also put us in a better position to grow enrollment was to do this,” Campbell said. “Our hope is because it’s more affordable there will be more interest and thus more revenue.”

Residential enrollment has been in steep decline as well, with just under 950 students living on campus in Gorham this semester, down from around 1,000 in the fall. In addition to the reductions in room rates in Gorham, which do not require the board of trustees’ approval, the university will also be providing housing grants to transfer students living on campus — $1,200 for in-state students and $3,000 for out-of-state students.

Director of Residential Life Denise Nelson said the efforts to get more students living in the residence halls are not just about bringing more money to the university.

“I truly believe that students, especially first-year students, get a better experience living on-campus,” Nelson said. “It saddens me when students just drive to campus, go to classes and leave when they’re done. They’re paying the same but getting so much less.”

The amount of each discount will depend on what kind of dorm room students are living in. Students living in a four-bedroom apartment in Upperclass Hall will save $575 for the semester and $1,500 for the year, while students living in less expensive housing like a double in Robie Andrews Hall will save $264 for the semester and $528 for the year.

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