Bill to lower college costs endorsed by Education Committee

Posted: February 02, 2017 | Education and Cultural Affairs, Senator Millett

AUGUSTA — A majority of the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs committee voted on Wednesday to support a bill by Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, to reduce the out-of-pocket costs of higher education for low-income students.

The seven Democrats on the Committee voted to support an amended version of the bill. All six Republicans voted against increasing aid to low-income students.

The Maine State Grant Program is the primary need-based grant program available to Maine’s post-secondary students. As amended by the committee, the bill — LD 32, “An Act To Increase the Size of Grants under the Maine State Grant Program” — would increase the minimum grant per eligible student from $1,000 to $1,500 and provide an $2.5 million to the Finance Authority of Maine, or FAME, to fund the increased grant amount in fiscal years 2018 and 2019.

The grant is available to students enrolled not only at two- and four-year degrees, but at technical and vocational programs that bestow professional certificates.

“When the Maine State Grant Program was first created in 1989, the minimum grant amount was $1,000 per student and that is no longer enough,” said Sen. Millett. “This increased minimum recognizes that times have changed and $1,500 is the new bottom line.”

The additional appropriation of funds will ensure that FAME can support the same number of students at the increased dollar amount.

“Too many Maine students are having difficulty paying for college,” said Sen. Millett. “A larger grant from this program will help shrink the gap between the cost of bills and the ability of students to pay them.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for initial votes. It will face further action in the House and Senate.