The BDN is making the most crucial coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact in Maine free for all readers. Click here for all coronavirus stories. You can join others committed to safeguarding this vital public service by purchasing a subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.

Students at Maine’s public universities will not have to pay any coronavirus-related tuition or fee expenses next school year under a new $559 million budget proposal conditionally approved by University of Maine System leaders.

But the system’s Board of Trustees’ 13-1 vote on the UMaine campus in Orono on Friday comes with a catch.

A $5.69 million projected shortfall sits within the budget, which goes into effect on July 1, according to a statement released Friday. The university’s anticipated coronavirus costs in 2021 also are expected to climb above $20 million in lost event revenue, student safety expenses in dining and residence hall operations, and investments in technology, safety equipment and supplies as the system retools to more effectively oppose the pandemic.

Student Trustee Trevor Hustus cast the dissenting vote. University Chancellor Dannell Malloy cheered the trustees’ approval of the budget.

“While there is work yet to do, today’s vote by the board makes it clear that students and their families will not face a tuition increase this fall related to the costs of COVID-19,” Malloy said.

As part of the conditional approval, the board’s Finance, Facilities and Technology Committee and the full board will revisit the budget this fall as uncertainties around state funding, school enrollments, and coronavirus expenses are resolved.

The board’s budgets include a 2.5 percent increase to undergraduate tuition for inflation as determined by the consumer price index. The increase, and preparations for handling it, have been in the works for more than a year, according to the statement.

The system has campuses in Augusta, Bangor, Farmington, Fort Kent, Machias, Presque Isle, a school of law, and the University of Southern Maine has campuses in Portland, Gorham, and Lewiston-Auburn.