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Colby College in Waterville has announced it will waive its application fee for Maine students, effective beginning this fall. The decision is based on Colby’s longstanding commitment to serve students from Maine and on the college’s belief that all qualified students should be able to attend regardless of their ability to pay college costs.

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Parker Beverage said he understands that the price of a Colby education may be daunting to some Maine families, but that qualified students should not be deterred from applying for financial reasons. “We do not want to miss the opportunity to enroll the really good Maine student who may be lured to a less expensive school, but who may find Colby just as affordable,” he said, indicating that financial aid, which is based on need, significantly offsets tuition costs.

Waiving the application fee is one small piece of the substantial financial commitment Colby makes to Maine students. In 2004-05, Colby gave almost $3 million in grants to students from Maine with financial need. The average grant was $22,610.

“To have this world-class institution so close to home is an asset to the students of Maine, and we work very hard to recruit qualified students from around the state,” said Beverage, who grew up in Augusta. “They don’t have to go very far away and they can have roommates from California and Bulgaria and India and all over.”

But Beverage recognizes that the $55 application fee is an obstacle and a financial burden for some students, particularly if they are applying to a number of colleges and universities. A recent survey by Colby’s Admissions Office indicates that a student applying to five colleges comparable to Colby can expect to spend almost $500, including standardized testing fees, application fees and other costs.

Though Colby uses revenue from application fees to offset the costs of mailings and of processing the thousands of applications it receives each year, Beverage thinks the benefit of waiving the fee in Maine — attracting the state’s best students — justifies forfeiting that revenue.

Eleven percent of Colby’s student body hails from Maine, as does more than 10 percent of the incoming Class of 2009. First-year students come from nearly 40 countries and from islands as close as North Haven, Maine, and as far as Maui and Malaysia.