The announcement that the University of Maine System is proposing $36 million in funding cuts comes as college-bound students are starting to receive financial aid packages and make decisions about where to attend school in the fall.

But the potential effect of those cuts – including the elimination of 50 faculty and staff members and four degree programs at the University of Southern Maine, which is planning $14 million in budget cuts – hasn’t factored much into their thinking, according to some college counselors.

“I honestly don’t even know if the students know,” said Nicole Sturgis, a college counselor at Windham High School.

May 1 is the deadline for students to commit to a college by making a deposit. At USM, that amount is $100. “Right now, parents are sitting down with their kids and starting to talk about money,” said Sturgis, who thinks that is the main factor for most students in determining where to go.

Because students who live in southern Maine can save money by living at home, she said, USM still remains an attractive choice for them.

Katrina Riggs, a senior at Dirigo High School in Dixfield, said she knew about the University of Maine System’s cuts, but that her ultimate choice between USM and Southern Maine Community College would be based on what she could afford.

“It hasn’t affected my decision at all,” she said on her way to a tour of USM’s Portland campus on Friday.

It didn’t concern her to hear that planned budget cuts would raise USM’s faculty-to-student ratio from 1-to-15 to 1-to-23.

“That’s not too bad,” she said.

Adam Sobczak, a junior at South Portland High School, is already planning to attend the University of Southern Maine to pursue a degree in engineering or science.

He’s not worried that the cutbacks will affect the quality of his education.

“I hate to say this, but some of the professors should be laid off,” he said.

Meanwhile, current students at USM are decrying the faculty layoffs and protested in front of the provost’s office Friday.

However, older students who are planning to return to school to get their degrees have expressed disappointment about the continuous cutbacks in the University of Maine System, said Rebecca Kosakowski, owner of Midcoast College Counseling in Bath.

Kosakowski said she hasn’t heard concerns from high school students, but the nontraditional students she works with have said they fear the programs they’re interested in might not be available in the future.

“What that sends them to is looking at online options,” she said.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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