Is Community College Free in Maine?

Is Community College Free in Maine?
Campus is the new alternative to online community college that provides a 100% live and online Associate of Arts in Business Administration degree program. We’re on a mission to maximize access to a world-class education, starting with our career-focused business program that equips students from across the U.S. with a solid foundation in core business principles to set them up for success no matter what their next step is.

Imagine pursuing higher education without the financial burden of tuition fees. Free community college programs reduce the cost of attending college.

While there are no nationwide free college initiatives in the U.S., several programs have been proposed to address the rising cost of education and create a higher education system that’s inclusive and accessible. In fact, as of 2022, half of U.S. States already have some form of free community college or free college programming.

Maine's initiative aligns with the nationwide trend towards free community college, offering an opportunity for students to pursue higher education without the burden of tuition fees. If you’re wondering how much is community college in Maine, the average cost of tuition is $3,810 per year for in-state students and $6,690 for out-of-state students. However, with the introduction of free community college programs, such financial concerns are alleviated, opening doors to education for all eligible students.

In this article, we’ll dive into the programs and opportunities in Maine that have emerged to increase access to higher education.

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So, Is Community College Free in Maine?

Yes, indeed, for recent high school graduates who meet the requirements, community college in Maine comes at no cost.

Maine’s Free College Scholarship is a scholarship program with the aim of covering the costs of college education for students who meet the qualifications to start an associate degree or a certificate program. The graduates of 2020 through 2025 classes with a high school diploma or equivalent (like HiSET or GED) will have access to two years of free community college. This initiative ensures that Maine residents can access higher education without worrying about the financial burden, thus promoting educational equity and opportunity.

The free college program manages 100% of tuition and mandatory fees after the application of other federal and state grant aid for students at Maine's seven community colleges.

Note that it does not pay for books and supplies, housing, transportation, food, and any additional non-mandatory fees.

Maine started its free community college program in 2022 to support high school students whose aspirations for higher education were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the program's first year, about 6,400 students attended community colleges tuition-free. This impact perhaps led to its expansion from the 2020 through 2023 class to include that of 2024 and 2025.

All seven of Maine's community colleges offer this free tuition for qualifying students. This program is not limited to a specific field of study, so students can choose from any community college degree or certificate program. These requirements ensure that the benefits of free community college are accessible to those who truly need them, fostering a culture of educational empowerment in Maine.

The colleges participating in this program are

  • Central Maine Community College in Auburn
  • Washington County Community College in Calais
  • Northern Maine Community College in Presque Isle
  • Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor
  • Southern Maine Community College in South Portland
  • York County Community College in Wells
  • Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield

Eligibility Criteria & How to Apply

To be eligible for the Free College Scholarship, students must

  • have graduated high school between 2020-25, or have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • pursue a full-time two-year associate degree or a certificate program (one year) at a Maine Community College.
  • live in Maine at the time of enrollment and while enrolled in the program.
  • qualify for and accept in-state and federal grants, scholarships, and other funding sources.
  • complete the FAFSA.

Here are a few key things you should note:

  • Both new and current community college students are eligible.
  • Students from the classes of 2020 and 2021 who are already enrolled in a two-year program or one-year certificate are eligible to receive funding to cover their remaining course of study.
  • Current students may increase their pace of study (e.g., from part-time to full-time) and/or apply for matriculation to meet eligibility criteria.
  • You don’t have to have graduated from a high school in Maine.

However, there’s a limit to enrollment. There are specific deadlines based on the year you graduated high school, and you have to pay attention to the dates specific to your situation.

Below is a quick breakdown:

High School Graduation Year Enrollment Deadline for the Free College Scholarship*
2020 or 2021 2023 - 2024
2022 2024 - 2025
2023 2025 - 2026
2024 2026 - 2027
2025 2027 - 2028

*Student must enroll before or during the academic year.

To apply for the Free College Scholarship:

  1. Fill out an admissions application to any of the seven community colleges in Maine and wait for feedback from the college regarding the scholarship. There is no other distinct scholarship application you need to fill out.
  2. Complete your FAFSA. Filing a financial aid application is critical to free community college. Once ready to file, visit the Federal Student Aid website.

By simplifying the application process, Maine's free community college program aims to remove barriers and encourage more students to pursue higher education. If you are already enrolled in a community college, the scholarship is automatic – you don’t need to fill out any extra paperwork. You're still eligible for free community college.

If you cannot file the FAFSA due to citizenship status or other reasons, contact the prospective community college to speak with an on-campus advisor.

The Pine Street State Pledge

While not specifically a free community college program, the Pine Street State Pledge addresses similar concerns about college affordability, providing an alternative pathway to accessible higher education in Maine. The Pine Tree State Pledge is a tuition guarantee initiative by the University of Maine at Augusta in response to concerns about rising college costs and student loan debt, especially in the cases of community college vs university.

The program has the goal of increasing access to higher education for residents. So, while it’s not a free community college program, it is a tuition-free initiative that’s so impactful that it deserves to be listed as an opportunity.

It pays the balance of tuition and mandatory fees after other grants (like the Pell Grant, Maine State grant, university grants) and scholarships have been applied.

Through this program, qualified and eligible students will not pay for tuition and mandatory fees. However, they would be responsible for non-tuition expenses, including books and supplies, commuting, housing, and meals.

Eligibility Criteria & How to Apply

To be eligible for the Pine Street State Pledge, you must

  • Not be currently enrolled at a University of Maine System institution.
  • Have met all entry requirements and be admitted to an associate's degree.
  • Be an in-state full-time, transfer full-time, or part-time student with at least 30 transferable credits.
  • Meet in-state residency requirements.
  • Be eligible to receive federal financial aid/ Pell grants.

To remain qualified, you must retain a minimum credit hour enrollment.

And applying is simple:

  1. Complete the University of Maine admission application.
  2. Submit the FAFSA (and to confirm continued eligibility, you must submit the FAFSA annually).

Funding is limited, so applying as quickly as possible and submitting the FAFSA is best to better your chances in the pool.

Considering Community College?

Your education is one of the most potent tools for endless possibilities and life enrichment. Free community college means you can focus on your studies without worrying about tuition costs. It's an investment in your future that won't break the bank, and all you need to do is explore the free community college options available in your specific state.

At Campus, we have an online associate degree in business program where tuition is below the maximum Federal Pell Grant award, so students who receive the full Pell would have no out-of-pocket tuition costs if they enroll. Campus also provides a free laptop, WiFi access as needed, and free e-textbook and tutoring access to keep costs low. Request more info to learn more.

Want to learn more about Campus?

Our admissions advisors can answer your questions.