Maine’s community colleges adopt debt forgiveness program

March 30, 2022

Forgives up to $2,000 in past debt for each returning student

AUGUSTA, ME – Maine’s community colleges are launching a new debt forgiveness program that eliminates up to $2,000 in student debt for all former students.

The Maine Community College System (MCCS) Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the change at their meeting Wednesday at the Augusta Civic Center.

“It’s time to come back and finish what you started,” said Janet Sortor, chief academic officer and vice president of MCCS. “These students have already proven they can succeed academically. They just need a little help getting over the finish line.”

The new program takes effect immediately.

“We want our students to succeed, and this is a great way to welcome them back and help them complete their degree or certificate without being burdened by student debt,” MCCS President David Daigler said. “We do everything possible to make Maine’s community college affordable. We have the lowest tuition in New England. We distribute more than $50 million a year in grants and scholarships. We provide emergency funds to students when needed. This debt forgiveness program is one more chance to show our students we believe in them and support them.”

Former MCCS students can take advantage of the “Return, Resume, Reward” small debt forgiveness program if they owe no more than $2,000, it has been at least two years since they attended a Maine community college, they enroll in at least six credits, and they maintain good academic standing.

A student’s past debt is set aside during the program, and half of the past debt (up to $1,000) is forgiven after the first semester. The second half is forgiven after the second semester.

Several of the system’s seven colleges have had an unofficial debt forgiveness program in place, allowing a student to re-enroll or access college services despite a small debt. This formalizes the process for all the colleges.

Tuition at Maine’s community colleges is $96 per credit, and the average cost of tuition and fees for a year of full-time study is $3,700.

Since the pandemic began, the colleges have distributed $24.5 million in federal pandemic relief funds directly to students for emergency aid, and the colleges have used almost $1 million in institutional pandemic relief funds to clear debts incurred by students during the pandemic. In addition, The Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges distributed $1 million in scholarships last fall.

Also Wednesday, the trustees were briefed on the details of $8.5 million in recent federal appropriations for Maine’s community colleges:

  • $4,000,000 for Eastern Maine Community College’s Katahdin Region Economic, Community, and Family Development project, expanding child care for EMCC students.
  • $1,000,000 for Northern Maine Community College’s Mechanized Logging Operations Training Program
  • $988,000 for Northern Maine Community College’s Expansion of Safety Training for Wind Turbine Technicians
  • $1,000,000 for Southern Maine Community College’s Accelerated and Expanded Manufacturing Training
  • $977,000 for the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center’s Building the Next Generation of Maine’s Seafood Workforce at Washington County Community College and Southern Maine Community College
  • &567,000 for Northern Maine Community College’s electrical construction and maintenance program.

“We will use these funds to add new tools for teaching logging, wind power and aquaculture, debut a new mobile lab to take our welding program on the road to where it’s needed most, and increase access to child care in the Katahdin region,” Daigler said.

“This is an incredible investment that will pay off for decades.”