USM makes list of nation’s most expensive colleges, official says data is out-of-date

Sam Hill | The Free Press

Posted on July 02, 2014 in News
By Sam Hill

USM is one of the nation’s most expensive public four-year colleges for in-state students according to a recent report published by the U.S. Department of Education.

USM was ranked 23rd in the public four-year college category with a net price — the amount that students paid after receiving grants and scholarships — of $18,177 a year. The national average net price was reported to be $11,582 annually.

The report was based on data submitted from the 2011-’12 academic year, which Assistant Director of Public Affairs Judie O’Malley said contained erroneous data submitted by a former employee.

O’Malley said officials made attempts to alter the data they had submitted after the errors were discovered, but that the deadline to make changes to their submissions had passed.

“It’s unfortunate this report has been released using that year,” said O’Malley, noting that the university submits their reports to the Department of Education annually. “The feds have all these numbers, but they’ve chosen ‘11-’12.”

O’Malley said that the data, which is now three years old, does not reflect efforts that have been made recently to keep costs down.

“USM has taken steps to make itself more affordable for students,” said O’Malley, noting that the report would not have reflected the tuition-freeze or reduction in student-housing costs made in the spring of 2012.

During the 2011-2012 year, the University of Maine’s flagship campus at Orono was listed as having a net price of $15,299, lower than the smaller campuses at USM.

O’Malley chalked up the difference between Maine universities to the endowments and scholarships available at UMO in comparison to USM. She also said USM is primarily a commuter school and that commuter students rarely have the connections that resident students do, which affects donation rates from alumni.