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Updated: April 25, 2022

SMCC offers two years of free tuition to qualified students

Aerial view of Southern Maine Community College campus File photo / SMCC Southern Maine Community College has its main campus on South Portland's waterfront.

Southern Maine Community College will offer two years of free community college to high school graduates most affected by the pandemic under the state’s new Free Community College initiative.

The move was made possible by a provision in Maine's supplemental budget for the coming fiscal year approved by state lawmakers last week.

Maine's spending plan for the $1.2 billion budget surplus includes a proposal from Gov. Janet Mills to cover tuition and fees for students who earned or will earn a high school diploma or equivalent in in 2020-2023 who enroll in a Maine community college full-time.

"This is a generational opportunity for students to receive the education and training they need to build bright futures,” said SMCC President Joe Cassidy. “These students met the challenge while having their high school educations upended by the pandemic. Now, we’re here to help them meet the challenge of earning a college education so they can reach their potential and gain the skills they need to successfully compete in Maine’s economy.”

Suzanne Hanvey, an SMCC student who graduated from high school in 2021, said the Free Community College initiative is an incentive for young people to stay in Maine for college and for work opportunities upon completion.

 “With so many young people leaving the state of Maine to find opportunities elsewhere, it is imperative we find ways to keep the younger generations here to help our economy,” she said. “Free community college would allow students to attend school and work at the same time contributing greatly to the Maine economy. It would also allow young people to truly meet their highest potential and make a true change in the world. This would be of great benefit to not only the students of the Maine community college system but to the greater population of Maine.”

The recently approved supplementary budget also paves the way for Maine's public universities to hold tuition flat for in-state residents for the seventh time in a decade, and for many Maine students to have their costs fully covered by the state.

To qualify for SMCC's free tuition offer, students must earn a high school diploma or the equivalent during the years from 2020 through 2023; enroll full-time; pursue an associate degree or academic credential, such as a one-year certificate; accept all federal and state grants and scholarship; participate in academic planning and advising and stay on track to completion; and live in Maine at the time of enrollment and while enrolled in college.

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