Days after approving a budget that tapped emergency reserve funds, the University of Maine System’s trustees released a draft strategic plan Thursday that would cut about $60 million through workforce reductions over the next five years as part of an effort to close a projected $69 million budget deficit by 2019.

In addition to financial restructuring, the document lays out expectations for an academic overhaul that streamlines course offerings so the system emerges with a “portfolio” model coordinated across the seven campuses while maintaining their distinct identities.

Trustee Chairman Sam Collins said the university system will look very different by 2019 if it follows the plan.

“I think the structure will be different, how we deliver education will be different. We have to change in order to be sustainable,” Collins said Thursday. “If we don’t change, that’s the scary part. If we don’t change, then maybe we’re not viable.”

Chancellor James Page said some of the initiatives proposed in the draft strategic plan were already underway.

On Monday, the trustees approved a $529 million budget for 2014-15 that includes $11.4 million from emergency reserves and the elimination of about 157 positions. The deep cuts and reserve funds closed a $36 million deficit that officials said was caused by flat state funding, declining enrollment and tuition freezes.

Those factors are unlikely to change, so more cuts are needed to head off future deficits, officials said.

The deficit systemwide has been projected at $65 million to $95 million in 2019; the system’s top financial officer said she is using a working figure of $69 million.

Rebecca Wyke, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said that figure assumes that the system can increase tuition slightly and get a slight increase in state funding. Together, tuition and state funding make up 88 percent of the system’s revenue.

Wyke said she anticipates that the system will be able to increase its state funding and tuition each year at the rate of inflation, which now is slightly less than 2 percent.

“We need to increase state support, but we’re not asking for some fantastical number,” she said. “Just to keep pace with inflation.”

A tuition increase could be a hard sell, and Collins said this week that the trustees are hesitant to raise tuition in a weak economic climate.

Tuition and fees total $10,700 a year for in-state students at the University of Maine in Orono and $27,970 for out-of-state students. At the University of Southern Maine, tuition and fees total $8,920 for in-state students and $21,280 for out-of-state students.

‘IT’S NEVER EASY’

Wyke said the projected $69 million deficit assumes that the campuses will hit their enrollment targets. Most of the campuses have fallen short of their targets in recent years, and the state has a declining number of graduating high school students.

Of the $69 million, about $10 million would be offset through “innovation,” Wyke said. That means attracting students to new academic offerings, such as UMaine Augusta’s aviation program, which was immediately filled to capacity.

The remaining $59 million would come from the workforce reductions. About $44 million of that would be in personnel reductions, and $15 million would be in associated savings such as closing facilities.

“It’s never easy when you have to cut positions,” Collins said. “You have to right-size the institution to the right number of students or the economy.”

Page, the chancellor, said that with increased revenue, some cuts could be avoided.

Any faculty reductions will be “a discussion that will occur over time, will be well thought-out and will involve faculty,” said Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Susan Hunter.

In recent years, the vast majority of cuts to academic positions have occurred as people have left their schools or retired. But as academic programs are cut, faculty layoffs are likely.

The layoffs of a dozen teachers this spring at USM prompted protests and rallies, and were rescinded by the president, who said she would work with the faculty to find other areas to cut.

Of the estimated $44 million in personnel cuts proposed in the report, about $18 million would come from faculty positions and $26 million would come from non-faculty positions ranging from administrators to service workers, said Wyke.

She said workforce reductions in the 2014-15 budget included 47 faculty members, so “we’re already probably at one-third or more of the ($18 million) target.”

That would leave about 100 faculty positions to be eliminated by 2019.

A WORK IN PROGRESS

Page said the draft strategic plan, written with input from system officials, trustees and the presidents of the seven campuses, is considered an internal working document that will evolve as various committees begin work on the specifics.

Its release on Thursday started a 30-day comment period, officials said. After that, groups made up of university representatives will take on pieces of the plan.

“There are a lot of questions: What does this mean? How will it play out? How does it affect my tax dollars? This (draft) document doesn’t answer those questions,” Page said. “This details the ‘whats’ and the ‘wheres,’ but not the ‘hows.’ ”

Sections of the plan have various target dates for completion, most before the end of this year.

The document lays out a plan for a “complete, rational restructuring of (the) academic portfolio,” with the elimination of programs and possibly departments, and an increase in online and distance learning. Such changes were considered in the last year as officials sought to balance the current budget.

Officials say improved coordination and “alignment” – cutting programs that are duplicated – is part of the plan. At the same time, each campus would aim for “mission differentiation,” carving out its own identity.

At USM, for example, officials are forming a task force to develop a “metropolitan university,” meaning USM would partner closely with local businesses and agencies. Orono will remain the flagship campus, and UMaine Augusta will build on its reputation for serving adult learners.

ELIMINATING OVERLAP

Instead of maintaining academic “silos” that at times have pitted campuses against one another for funding, faculty and students, the goal is to collaborate and consolidate to create a system with a “portfolio” of academic offerings with little overlap between campuses.

One such effort has already focused on nursing.

Nursing is now offered at four campuses, and while it’s in demand, the universities lose money because it requires a low teacher-student ratio and high-cost clinical instruction.

UMaine Augusta is now phasing out its associate degree program in nursing and collaborating with UMaine Fort Kent to offer a four-year program in which students take courses in Augusta and get bachelor’s degrees from UMaine Fort Kent.

Other savings will come from a review of facilities that is underway, but Page said there is no target saving plan yet.

“Other than we know our current footprint (of 9 million square feet) is unsustainable, we don’t have enough good data to say,” he said. “We know there are real savings to be had there.”

A team is touring the campuses to evaluate the facilities and has already identified about 500,000 square feet that isn’t highly used.

The proposal also lays out goals to increase revenue from research and economic development, in part through licensing agreements. The system now receives $200,000 in annual revenue from licensing; the strategic plan sets a goal of increasing that by 20 percent.

Other revenue goals are increasing grants and contracts by 3 percent a year and increasing partnerships with businesses, to increase the current $4.2 million in revenue to $9 million by 2017.

The plan will be reviewed by the UMS board of trustees on July 21.

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

[email protected]