We have been hearing about budget cuts at Maine’s state universities, but have we considered the full impact of those and previous cuts? Have we considered what these cuts have done to the ability of students to take the courses they need to graduate?

Why do the presidents and deans have more power than the department chairs to say which courses will be offered each semester? Why are core courses for a major often only available once a year?

Why are electives needed for graduation only offered once every couple of years? Why is a required 300-level class cancelled with 15 students enrolled, but a nonrequired 100-level class offered with only five students enrolled?

We’re sorry, you needed that 300-level class to graduate? Come back next year; maybe we’ll offer it, but there’s no guarantee.

Why are students who transfer from another university, even within Maine’s university system, jerked around by petty home-court rules about what courses will count?

You took sociology? Sorry, we require psychology. You took 20th-century American literature? Sorry, we require 19th-century American literature.

You took an education class at Campus Z for three credits? Sorry, here at Campus Y it only counts for two credits (or not at all). You took creative writing? Sorry, we only count expository writing.

On and on it goes, until students are ready to give up and walk away from all their hard work with no degree and lowered job prospects.

Maine needs a university system that respects the faculty and students at all its campuses, one that respects the faculty of, and students coming from, universities outside of Maine, and one that respects the faculty and students at its community colleges and satellite campuses.

Most of all, Maine needs a university system that is funded to a level where required courses are offered twice a year; where all electives in each major are offered at least once a year, and more often when needed.

Maine needs a university system where students can reasonably expect to finish their degree requirements in four years.

Helen A. Shaw

Rockport 

The University Free Press for May 5 reports that the University of Maine System has hired a higher-education consulting firm for $240,000 for a “strategic pricing market analysis” and will likely contract with the same firm for $250,000 to analyze the “best use of financial aid by campus.”

The consulting agencies are to speak to the “declining in state funding” and the decrease in enrollment.

Looked at from a certain perspective, these sums to be spent on an outside consulting firm are a declaration that the system does not know what it is doing. Surely there must be within UMS, with all its talent and expertise, minds capable of addressing these questions. At least the system does pay lip service to the fact that it is in the knowledge business.

But that is exactly the trouble. The trustees (apparently) and the administrators are looking at UMS as a business and students as products to be processed.

What matters apparently is how many are turned out. Whether they know anything or not is not official business.

It is because the system — at any university or college campus — is in its essential nature a thing unknown that the mind reaches for the nearest, most familiar metaphor to fill in the empty space. That metaphor is the corporation, which establishes the facts and dictates the thinking.

To the conventional mind, there is no life outside of money and its powers. The thrust of that force has been to push all schools toward being trade schools, as a medical school is a trade school. If it does not make money, it is not real.

Inevitably what the Greeks called “entelechy,” the final destiny of an entity, will be for society the diminishment and eventual dissolution of democracy; for democracy at center is about freedom, and the pursuit and preservation of money is thralldom.

L. Morrill Burke

Long Island 

Dirigo Health a success, despite what some allege 

As the 2010 race for Maine’s governorship has heated up, some candidates have called Dirigo Health a failure, and some have even called for its abolition. The “facts” underlying these criticisms are incorrect, and I hope to set that record straight.

When Maine’s Legislature passed the health care reform law known as Dirigo Health in 2003, health care costs in Maine were climbing faster than the national average, and 13 percent of Mainers were uninsured.

Dirigo was never adequately funded but it is working — today, the national uninsured rate is 15.4 percent; Maine’s uninsured rate is 9.6 percent (the sixth best in the nation).

Since Dirigo Choice began insuring Mainers in January 2005:

Some 1,205 small businesses purchased coverage through Dirigo Choice, and received subsidies to help their employees obtain health insurance.

In the five years ending this past Feb. 1, a total of 30,686 people received coverage through Dirigo Choice.

As of Feb. 1, 8,062 people were covered by Dirigo Choice, plus 6,200 parents enrolled in MaineCare through Dirigo.

Half of Dirigo Choice enrollees have household incomes below $15,315 a year. Without Dirigo, they couldn’t afford health insurance.

Going forward, the Legislature has created a reliable source for Dirigo’s funding, none of it coming from Maine’s General Fund. As a result, new members will enroll in Dirigo Choice starting this summer.

Further, because Dirigo already exists, Maine is well-positioned to implement national health reforms just passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.

Mainers could be among the first Americans to receive the federal subsidies that law provides.

Debate over public policy is healthy, but should be based on facts. I believe that Maine citizens are far better off as a result of Dirigo Health.

Others may disagree: that’s fine, let’s debate the issue. But let’s base the debate on facts.

Jonathan Beal

Chairman, board of trustees

Dirigo Health Agency

Portland 

Wind may be free, but creating power from it has costs 

I remember my dad telling me “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.” I have lived a fair number of years and have always found that adage to be the truth.

I believe we have some “too good to be true” moments happening all around our country today. One is called “wind energy.”

Just think about it. In every state wind energy is being touted as the solution to our energy woes. It is supposed to be “green,” which is technically an untruth, considering the costs and environmental effects.

Wind power brings stimulus money in. And who wouldn’t want that? But, where does the money go? Does it go overseas to companies that build the giant wind turbines and ship them here to our country?

Some believe Washington would not allow that to happen, as it would be absurd. Really?

The truth of the matter is in the facts as we now know them. Wind turbines are not the clean, green source of renewable power that Gov. Baldacci would have us believe.

Industrial wind turbines are gigantic machines that weigh several hundred tons, not including their foundations, which are heavily reinforced with steel bars. The steel has to be smelted and forged. Steel production requires a major use of coal, the very polluter that wind energy is supposed to suppress.

Wind turbines have been shown to be only intermittent producers of energy, relying on an unreliable source to power them: wind. They must be backed up by fossil fuels.

Maine truly does need to become energy-independent. But wind energy should only be a minimal part of energy production. We need other, more reliable sources of energy. Wind energy is, indeed, too good to be true.

Linda Miller

Lexington Township