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Maine community colleges to offer free tuition

All seven of Maine's community colleges are offering free tuition for up to two years to qualifying students.

MAINE, USA — Starting this summer, Maine's community colleges will offer free tuition to students who graduated or will graduate high school between 2020 and 2023.

This funding was made possible under the new Free College initiative in the supplemental budget, which was signed last week by Gov. Janet Mills.

A total of $20 million is being allocated to the Maine Community College System to provide free tuition to students who meet the qualifications, which include having a high school diploma or equivalent from 2020-2023, enrolling full-time in an associate degree program or one-year credential, living in Maine while enrolled as a student, and accepting all federal and state grants, scholarships, and other funding sources. 

Lauren Quinn, director of advising for Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor, said the funding will also apply to current students who are eligible. 

"The other really cool piece is that it's for students, not those who are just earning their high school diploma but those who are earning their GED or their HiSETs, so it's not necessarily traditional-aged college students. It can be a variety of ages," Quinn said.

The community college system reports the average yearly cost of tuition is $3,700.

"A lot of our students have a lot of other priorities in life, so they're working part-time or full-time, they have families to take care of, and they also want to come to school to help them earn a certification or degree to help them reach their goals. So without the extra burden of the cost of college, they can work toward achieving those goals in a quicker manner," Quinn said. 

Cooper Khoury is in his first year of the building construction program at EMCC. He said he's fortunate this financial assistance will help out his parents, who are currently paying for his college tuition and his brother's private university tuition costs. Khoury said this program may change circumstances for some of his friends.

"If they were on the fence of coming to school or going to work, I think this really pushes them to further their education and maybe strive for something they didn't see possible in their future," Khoury said.

"It really allows them opportunities to follow their dreams and reach their goals without having to worry about the burden of the cost of college," Quinn said.

For more information about the free college program, click here

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