PORTLAND — The University of Southern Maine today released a draft proposal to reduce its academic structure from eight to five schools or colleges.

Developed by a team of eight administrators and faculty members, the proposal would eliminate three academic deans and save about $750,000 annually based on current costs, said USM spokesman Bob Caswell.

USM now has eight schools or colleges: School of Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology; College of Arts and Sciences; School of Business; College of Education and Human Development; Muskie School of Public Service; College of Nursing and Health Professions; Lewiston-Auburn College; and University of Maine School of Law.

Lewiston-Auburn College and University of Maine School of Law would not be affected by the proposed reorganization.

The other six existing schools and colleges would be remodeled into three colleges: Muskie College of Public Service, Management & Society; Communication, Culture & the Arts College; and Nursing, Health Professions & STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) College.

The School of Business would become part of the Muskie College of Public Service, Management & Society. Teacher education would be divided between the Communication, Culture & the Arts College at the undergraduate level and the Muskie College at the graduate level.

“The draft proposal groups academic disciplines together in ways that break down silos, creating opportunities for greater faculty collaboration and for students to engage in new and exciting interdisciplinary study,” said Jim Shaffer, USM’s chief operating officer and chairman of the design team.

The goal is to create an organizational structure that is academically robust and synergistic, serves the needs of students and the state, and helps make USM financially sustainable long term.

The draft proposal would not bring savings for more than a year, Shaffer said.

“We face an estimated $3 million shortfall in the fiscal year that begins July 1,” Shaffer said. “So, other cost-saving strategies will be implemented beginning this spring.”

Feedback on the proposed academic reorganization will be accepted through March 15. A final draft will be submitted to Botman on March 19.

Botman will take additional feedback, make revisions, if necessary, and forward a final proposal to system trustees on April 24 for approval at their May 23-24 meeting. Implementation would begin following trustees’ approval.

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