November 20, 2013

Enrollment at UMaine System drops 2 percent

Two of seven campuses show increases, but an overall trend has officials looking at nontraditional recruitment.

By Noel K. Gallagher
Staff Writer

Fall enrollment is down 2 percent from last fall in the University of Maine System, although enrollment at the flagship campus in Orono is up 3.2 percent, officials said.

click image to enlarge

Bob Coakley teaches a physics class at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. With 8,923 students, USM’s overall fall enrollment is down 4.9 percent, with a 7.5 percent drop in graduate enrollment and a 4.2 percent drop in undergraduate enrollment.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

Orono and Fort Kent are the only campuses in the system with enrollment increases this fall, according to a report presented Monday at the system’s Board of Trustees meeting in Farmington.

The Orono campus has a 4.6 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment, with graduate enrollment down 2.7 percent. Fort Kent is up 3.4 percent, for a total enrollment of 1,209 students.

At the University of Southern Maine, which has 8,923 students in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston, overall enrollment is down 4.9 percent, with a 7.5 percent drop in graduate enrollment and a 4.2 percent drop in undergraduate enrollment from the fall of 2012.

For all seven campuses, enrollment this fall totals 30,365 students, a 6.1 percent drop since the fall of 2009, when the system had 32,340 students.

A big reason for the drop is the shrinking number of Maine high school graduates. That trend has university officials focused on recruiting more nontraditional, transfer, adult and out-of-state students.

“Despite our state’s demographic realities and the enrollment challenges that presents to our universities in recruiting traditional 18-year-old students, there are several positive signs that indicate we are moving in the right direction,” said Chancellor James H. Page.

Officials noted that the number of out-of-state students is up 6.3 percent and the number of minority students is up 3.1 percent. Online education credit hours are up 10 percent in the last year. But the number of transfer students dropped 12.2 percent.

In other news, system officials said they have reached a tentative agreement on a contract with the faculty union. The union is scheduled to vote on the proposal later this year.

About 1,200 faculty members represented by the union have been working without a contract since July 2011. The Associated Faculty of the University of Maine and the UMaine System requested arbitration with the Maine Labor Relations Board in March because of disagreements over salaries and other issues.

The university system and the union began negotiations almost two years ago. They went before a fact-finding panel in 2012 to seek recommendations for 10 areas of disagreement.

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