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November 30, 2023

Maine universities will offer free tuition to Lewiston shooting victims, families

aerial of college campus FILE PHOTO The University of Southern Maine is part of the other public universities in Maine that will be providing free tuition to Lewiston mass shooting victims.

The University of Maine System will offer free tuition to the victims and families of the Lewiston mass shootings through a new waiver program.

The Lewiston Strong Tuition Waiver Program is available to eligible victims of the Oct. 25 shootings, which left 18 people dead and 13 injured. The program allows those who have been affected by the tragedy  to pursue a bachelor’s degree at any Maine public university. 

“The horrific events in Lewiston have continued to impact the people of Maine and our nation,” said UMaine and University of Maine at Machias President Joan Ferrini-Mundy. “The University of Maine and the University of Maine at Machias communities are opening our arms to a brighter future where we can ensure access to higher education and be a resource of support to all directly affected by this tragedy.”

The program is estimated to cover more than 80 people.

Those eligible include spouses and biological, adopted and stepchildren of the individuals who were killed, as well as the Mainers who sustained physical injuries connected to the shootings, a news release stated. 

Gov. Janet Mills, Chancellor Dannel Malloy and the UMaine System Board of Trustees said Wednesday Mills requested a scholarship fund be created. 

“By all accounts, those who were tragically killed were deeply devoted to their families and working hard to provide them a strong future,” said Malloy. “While nothing will bring them back, the University of Maine System believes that the best way we can honor the memories of those taken too soon is to ensure their loved ones can easily access postsecondary education and opportunity.”

The UMaine System has also launched a Lewiston Strong Scholarship Fund to which the public can donate. The purpose of the scholarship, which the University of Maine Foundation will manage, is to help cover other college costs aside from tuition, such as room and board and books. The scholarship will also be rewarded with preference for those eligible for the Lewiston Strong Tuition Waiver.

“It is my hope that this scholarship will provide educational opportunities for those who lost loved ones, and it is my wish that they will feel a sense of care and compassion from the many people who will donate to this important fund,” said Jacqueline Edmondson, president of the UMaine System's University of Southern Maine. 

Other support for victims

In response to the shooting, many businesses throughout Maine have been fundraising to help victims and their family members. But this latest fundraising effort is providing support for businesses that are struggling to make ends meet. 

On Monday, the Lewiston Auburn Chamber of Commerce announced a relief fund for those small businesses and the starting donation was a $500,000 commitment to match corporate and community donations from BlueTriton Brands, the parent company of Poland Spring.

"Research tells us that a quick response in the months directly following a mass shooting event is crucial to the long-term outlook of the local economy," said Shanna Cox, president and CEO of the LA Metro Chamber. "Businesses in the LA Metro area — particularly in the hospitality industry — are sharing how hard the weeks since the shooting have been."

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