University of Maine System officials will make a “significant” announcement Tuesday about a new Portland-based graduate center, likely focused on funding from the Harold Alfond Foundation, which has already poured millions into the idea.

In November, system trustees authorized Chancellor James Page to ask the Alfond Foundation for $10 million: $5 million for the first year of operations, and another $5 million in the second year that would be matched with outside funding.

The announcement is scheduled for 11 a.m. on the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus.

The proposed center has been in the works since 2013. It would house the University of Maine School of Law, a new MBA program combining the current graduate business programs operating at USM and UMaine in Orono, and the graduate programs in public health and in public policy and management, which now operate at the Muskie School of Public Service at USM. It also would house the Cutler Institute for Health and Policy, which is the research arm of USM and part of the Muskie School on the Portland campus.

If first stage funding is successful, the trustees will be asked to authorize a second stage that includes raising funds to build a $94 million building somewhere in Portland to house the Maine Center for Graduate Professional Studies. A location has not yet been identified, but the center is included as an element on USM campus expansion plans for the Portland campus.

Financial projections for the center anticipate a total capital investment of $150 million, with over $100 million raised from foundations that invest in education reform. The center will be financially self-sustaining by 2024, according to a business plan.

In its 2016 grant report issued earlier this year, the Alfond Foundation said to “stay tuned” for ongoing funding news about the center. The foundation has already invested $2.25 million for early-stage development.

“The goals of the Center are admittedly ambitious. Mergers are never easy, especially in academia,” the report said, referring to the merger of the business programs. “But the Maine Center has always been about more than a merger. It is about encouraging innovation in one area of public education to catalyze broader transformation across the entire UMaine System.”

“This has certainly been ‘no easy matter,’ ” the report reads. “We are inspired by the transformative nature of the Maine Center vision, and by the tireless work undertaken by faculty and administrators alike, from Orono to Portland, to achieve it. Any future funding will be paid in installments, with each installment requiring the achievement of milestones that we believe are necessary for the project’s success. Stay tuned.”

Some of that tension was aired Monday at the trustees meeting, held in Orono. During the public comment period, three members of the Orono MBA program expressed concern that the business program merger could hurt the Orono program.

“The Portland plan utilizes the goodwill and brand name of the (Orono business program) while taking away our MBA and putting it under the control of others, and we’re being asked to share our resources in an already constrained resource environment,” said Grant Miles, an associate professor of management. “Faculty at the Maine business school remain willing to work to create a viable program in Portland that leverages our brand with others in the UMaine System. Currently constructed … we believe it’s not in the best interest of the business school, University of Maine or University of Maine System.”

Also Monday, the trustees announced several senior management changes, including eliminating the chief financial officer position and adding two new associate vice chancellor positions. Overall compensation for the system office will increase $31,683 as a result of the changes, a spokesman said.

Former CFO Ryan Low was promoted to vice chancellor for finance and administration and his previous position will not be filled. He succeeds Rebecca Wyke, who in June was appointed president of UMaine Augusta. Low’s salary will increase from $187,000 to $210,000.

The system also hired David Demers as the new chief information officer, succeeding Dick Thompson, who retired. Carol Kim was hired July 1 in the new position of associate vice chancellor for academic innovation partnerships, and will be paid $168,300. Robert Placido was hired as associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at $180,000 annually.

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

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