The Free College Scholarship gives recent high school graduates a leg up on their next adventure as they enter the workforce in the wake of a global pandemic. High school graduates from the Classes of 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023 all qualify for a Free College Scholarship that pays 100% of tuition and mandatory fees at SMCC.
If you graduated high school (or earned the equivalent of a high school diploma, like a GED or Hi-SET) in 2020, 2021, 2022, or 2023 – you’re eligible. It’s that simple. There are no income or age limits. All you have to do is enroll full time in a degree or certificate program and accept any state or federal aid you qualify for. That’s it – you’re in!
It pays for up to two years of tuition and mandatory fees, which typically runs about $3,700 a year.
For 2020-2023 high school graduates:
- If you have already applied and are waiting to hear back regarding your acceptance, you do not need to apply again to be considered for the Free College Scholarship.
We will provide more information about Free College when we send your acceptance materials.
Free College FAQ's
Have questions about Free College? Browse these FAQ's to find the answers you need.
How do I qualify for the Free College Scholarship?
To qualify, students must:
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent. This includes home schooled students, and students earning a GED or Hi-SET during those years.
- Enroll full time, earning 30 credits per calendar year.
- Pursue an associate degree or academic credential.
- Accept all federal and state grants and scholarships.
- Participate in academic planning and advising to stay on track to completion.
- Live in Maine at the time of enrollment and while enrolled in the program.
How do I apply?
There is no application for the Free College Scholarship. If you are eligible and enroll at SMCC, our financial aid office will work with you to award the scholarship. Apply to SMCC now.
What does the Free College Scholarship pay for?
The Free College Scholarship pays for tuition and mandatory fees that are not covered by federal and state grants. The Free College Scholarship does not pay for: books, supplies, transportation, housing, food, etc.
What can I study?
You can choose from any of our degree or certificate programs. View programs.
What if I can’t go full time (30 credits over 12 months) – are there other options?
Even if you go part-time, you qualify for grant aid, so your costs may be covered. Plus,
SMCC offers multiple tuition waiver or free college opportunities, including free short-term workforce training, which you can learn about by visiting our Career Skills & Workforce Training webpage.
What is the FAFSA and how do I complete it?
The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It’s used by all schools to determine eligibility for federal and state financial aid. If you need help, there are advisors standing by at FAME Maine. You can also contact our financial aid office at 207-741-5518, email finaid@smccME.edu or visit our Financial Aid webpage.
Are those who are not U.S. Citizens Eligible?
Yes! Noncitizens qualify for the scholarship.
How long does the free college scholarship last?
For as long as your program lasts – up to two years. You just need to stay on track for an on-time graduation.
I’m already an SMCC student, do I qualify?
Yes! If you graduated from high school in 2020 or 2021 you qualify for free college, even if you’re already enrolled. You do not need to apply for the scholarship. The Financial Aid Office at SMCC will work with you.
I already applied and am waiting to hear if I’ve been accepted. Do I need to apply again?
No. If you’ve applied we will send you information regarding your acceptance and next steps around the Free College Scholarship.
Can I get a refund for previous semesters?
Unfortunately no – sorry! This scholarship is new and does not retroactively cover any costs.
Does the free college scholarship cover developmental classes?
Yes, it does.
What are the benefits of a free college initiative?
The most direct benefit is to the students themselves, who won’t have to pay tuition or mandatory fees. But there are other benefits as well, including:
- Creating a spectrum of free education opportunities for high school graduates, no matter their path. Maine’s community colleges currently offer free short-term workforce training programs, which take less than a year to complete.
- Increasing the number of successful students at Maine’s community colleges. Studies show full-time students have higher retention/graduation rates.
- Increasing the number of young people in Maine with a credential of value. Supports MaineSpark and Maine’s 10-year economic plan goal of having 60 percent of Mainers with a credential of value by 2025, up from the current 44 percent.
- Increasing Maine’s high school graduation rate. Promise of free college for high school graduates may increase graduation rates.
- Encouraging young Mainers to stay in the state. Incentive to stay and get free college in Maine instead of pursuing an education or job out of state.
- Attracting out-of-state families who want to live and work in a state that offers free college for their children.
Why is Free College only for particular graduating years?
We know those students were hit hard by the pandemic. Their high school experience was disrupted, their families faced economic, health and financial challenges, and many graduating seniors delayed going to college. Free College removes a financial barrier that might be keeping some people from returning to college or pursuing college right out of high school.
How many students are expected to take advantage of the initiative?
The Maine Community College System anticipates about 8,000 students will benefit from the free college offer. Pre-pandemic, about 2,000 direct from high school students enrolled in Maine community colleges each fall. That dropped in the last two years to about 1,770 students.
Other states launching free college initiatives saw enrollment increase about 25 percent.
Are there other ways for SMCC students to get “free college”?
Are there other ways for SMCC students to get “free college”? (pulled from system FAQ’s)
Yes, we offer multiple tuition waiver or free college opportunities, including:
- Free Early College: With state funds, any high school student can take up to 12 free college credits a year at any MCCS or UMS college. If they exceed 12 credits in a year, tuition is half-price.For more information, visit our Dual Enrollment webpage.
- Free Short-term Workforce Training: With Maine Quality Center funds, Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan funds and a mix of public and private investments, SMCC offers free short-term training (up to one year) to thousands of workers every year. There is no age restriction, and many in program are early and mid-career. For more information, visit our Career Skills & Workforce Training webpage.
- Free College through state and federal grants: Community college is already free for many students, they just don’t know it! For years now, about half of all degree-seeking students at Maine’s community colleges receive enough grant aid to cover the full cost of tuition and mandatory fees. Seventy-four percent get some form of grant aid, lowering the cost of attendance.
- The Maine Community College system also has tuition waiver policies for:
- Adult education students
- Service members or veterans
- Students from foster care.
- Native Americans from regional tribes
- Low-income parents, via HOPE Program (DHHS – Higher Opportunity for Pathways to Employment) and PaS Program (TANF – Parents as Scholars)
- Children or spouses
Where can I get more information about Free College and Financial Aid?
To learn more visit our Free College & Financial Aid FAQ webpage.
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We have numerous transfer agreements that allow you to transfer seamlessly to a four-year college upon graduating from various associate degree programs.
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