The University of Southern Maine, bearing the brunt of budget cuts planned throughout the University of Maine System, must trim 10 percent of its planned spending for the year that starts July 1.

USM officials are considering mothballing old dorms on the Gorham campus; closing the John Calvin Stevens-designed Stone House in Freeport, which houses the school’s creative writing master’s program; encouraging early retirements; and eliminating underused programs in an effort to cut $14 million from its $140 million annual budget.

“This is a major challenge but one we’re addressing head-on,” President Theodora Kalikow said Monday.

She will announce her plans for the cuts, which are part of a campus restructuring effort, at a Faculty Senate meeting at 2 p.m. Friday on the Portland campus.

“Our planning group of faculty, staff, students and members from off campus worked over the last several months to give us a shared understanding of where USM is and advise as to where we should head,” Kalikow said. “We’ll use that advice, along with our own judgment, to do what’s in the best interest of our students and the people of Maine.”

The cuts are part of an effort throughout Maine’s seven-campus university system to eliminate about 165 positions and close a structural deficit of $36 million caused by flat state funding, declining enrollment and tuition freezes.

Each campus has a target amount to cut, and campus officials will submit their budgets to the system office next month. As the system’s largest campuses, USM and the University of Maine in Orono stand to take the biggest cuts.

The campus in Orono initially faced a $24 million structural gap, but generated an extra $11 million in tuition last fall through aggressive outreach and new recruitment.

The systemwide budget will be presented to the trustees in May.

‘BIG CHANGE NEEDS TO HAPPEN’

USM students and faculty members said Monday that they are bracing for Kalikow’s announcement, particularly since the campus cut $5 million from its budget for the current year.

“For better or worse, big change is coming,” said senior Will Gattis, an economics major and vice chairman of the USM Student Senate. “Staffing cuts are coming at a time when it’s tough to get a job at a university. But sometimes layoffs need to happen. I know big change needs to happen. I hope it’s as painless as possible.”

Among the proposals to save money and raise revenue at USM:

Reduce tuition for out-of-state students to increase enrollment.

Offer more online, evening and summer programs.

Partner with private industry to operate fitness programs, housing and the university’s ice arena in Gorham.

Offer sports clinics during school breaks.

Charge guests for parking.

Require all faculty members to teach three courses each semester.

The entire list of recommendations is on the university’s website. http://usm.maine.edu/directionpackage/final-recommendations-direction-package-advisory-board.

Beyond USM and the University of Maine, each campus in the system faces significant cuts:

Farmington: $2.6 million from a $39 million budget.

Augusta: $1.6 million to $2.5 million from a $38 million budget.

Fort Kent: $1.8 million from a $12 million budget.

Presque Isle: $1.7 million from a $16 million budget.

Machias: $500,000 from an $11 million budget.

The University of Maine System office must cut $1.4 million from an $18 million budget.

Chancellor James Page warned the Legislature’s budget writing committee Friday that any further reductions to the system’s state funding could make the cuts even deeper. For the past three years, the state has kept the system’s funding stable and, in exchange, the system has frozen tuition.

The current state appropriation is $6.2 million less than the system received in 2007-08. Systemwide, tuition accounts for 42 percent of all revenue; the state funding is 34 percent.

RETIREMENT INCENTIVES OFFERED

The financial pressures on the university system are consistent with those on many other state systems, which were hit particularly hard during the recession when states slashed higher-education budgets and health care costs soared.

Payroll costs are the largest factor, officials said. Compensation and benefits consume 74 percent of the university system’s operating budget. Since 2007, the systemwide workforce has been reduced by 521 employees – almost 10 percent.

All of the campuses are offering a retirement incentive to members of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine.

For USM, the retirement incentive is one of the big items on a list of potential savings, cutting as much as $4.8 million off the budget if enough people agree to retire, according to the proposal.

The school could save as much as $400,000 in the coming year by closing Dickey-Wood Hall, the distinctive pair of round dormitories in Gorham that were built in the 1960s and now have several vacant floors. Mothballing the Stone House, at Wolfe Neck State Park in Freeport, would save an estimated $45,000, the cost of opening the house for a few weeks every year for the semiannual residencies that are part of the Stonecoast Masters of Fine Art program.

WHAT MAKES MONEY, WHAT LOSES

A subcommittee of USM’s planning group that’s reviewing academic programs provided an analysis of whether each department or school makes money based on the number of students, tuition and cost of instruction. For example, the departments of criminology, technology, engineering, biology, psychology, and communication and media studies are profitable, while the art, music, theater, English and foreign language departments lose money.

The School of Business is profitable, but the School of Education and the Muskie School of Public Service lose money.

The planning group’s proposal to Kalikow does not recommend specific cuts, but lays out the numbers, including the trends in the number of degrees awarded.

“I hope the cuts to the academic side are minimal,” said Matthew Killmeier, an associate professor in the Department of Communication and Media Studies. “I don’t know how much of the $14 million we need to come up with. … I know something bad is going to happen but I hate to speculate.”

Some program cuts or consolidations appear inevitable. Last fall, USM Provost Michael Stevenson identified 17 programs with fewer than five graduates a year. Those programs were scheduled for review and possible elimination. Kalikow said any student in an eliminated program would be able to graduate with that degree, but new students would not be enrolled.

Some under-enrolled programs could be combined, or run cooperatively with other University of Maine campuses or online.

Kalikow said campus officials will notify any employees who are directly affected by cuts before her announcement Friday.

“We are going to avoid surprises at any cost,” Stevenson told the Faculty Senate last week.

 

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

ngallagher@pressherald.com