Maine’s public universities are looking for a 4 percent state aid increase for each of the next two years as they look to a financing cycle in which state budget writers might have to trim expenses by more than $1 billion.

The University of Maine System earlier this month submitted a budget request to Gov. John Baldacci’s office that seeks a $7.1 million increase over current state aid levels for the 2011-12 school year and another $7.4 million on top of that for the following year.

University system trustees will have a look at the seven-campus network’s budget request at a meeting on Monday.

If the request makes it into the state budget unchanged, it would essentially pay for current operations, said Rebecca Wyke, the university system’s vice chancellor for finance and administration.

But Wyke said she realizes it’s far from certain that the university system’s request will go in unaltered. Its fate depends not only on available revenues, but also on who is elected governor in November.

“We know what the state’s situation is,” she said. “We’re understanding that getting any kind of an increase will be very difficult.”

The request assumes enrollment won’t change from the current 42,000-student head count and that tuition will increase at 3 percent annually. The tuition increases would be 5 percent if the aid increases don’t pass, according to the university system.

The requested increases would bring the University of Maine System’s state appropriation to $183.5 million for the 2011-12 academic year and $190.9 million for the following one. The 2011-12 amount would be about $300,000 larger than the university system’s aid package for the 2007-08 school year, after which state aid declined.

“It’s a difficult time for the state,” Wyke said. “It’s also a difficult time for the universities.”

The budget request submitted to Baldacci’s office details a number of budget reductions the university system and its member campuses have made in recent years.

The number of full-time university system employees has dropped by more than 300, or 6 percent, since the 2007-08 academic year to the equivalent of 5,096 full-time workers.

In addition, the universities have saved by eliminating some courses and programs with low student counts and by negotiating union contracts that include no cost-of-living increases.

Over time, Wyke said, the University of Maine System is reducing a perpetual budget deficit that officials two years ago expected to grow to $43 million by the 2012-13 academic year. Now, Wyke said, that projection has shrunk to $29.2 million.

“We’ve had to make some very serious reductions,” she said.

While it’s helpful to know what the university system wants, said Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, Maine’s seven campuses should be prepared to receive less than what they’re requesting.

“I think it’s important for everyone to realize that, probably, we’re going to have to at least be holding where we are and maybe making a reduction,” said Diamond, the Senate chairman of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee.

While an increase might seem untenable, Rep. Emily Cain, D-Orono, said she’s interested in the justification behind it.

“I know there’s often reaction when these requests come in and they’re larger than you would think,” said Cain, the House chairwoman on Appropriations and a part-time University of Maine employee. “But it’s also their role in this process to say, ‘In order to meet our mission in the state of Maine, we need X.’“

And for Maine’s universities, that mission might line up closely with broader state priorities, Cain said.

“I think budget requests from entities like the University of Maine System and the community college system,” she said, “need to be answering the question: How are we going to work to make this economy stronger and come out of this recession faster?”