Amid the controversy over Selma Botman’s recent resignation from its presidency, the most salient fact about the University of Southern Maine has been ignored: By any reasonable measure, USM is a failed institution.

The market knows this. Enrollment has declined for years, and those who do enroll find little reason to stay.

According to USM’s own Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, only 52 percent of entering freshmen remain to start their junior year.

The consequence of falling enrollment is, of course, reduced revenue.

Put simply, USM does not generate enough revenue from tuition, state appropriations and voluntary contributions to cover the costs of its programs and of maintaining and improving its facilities.

Consequently, each year the school must cut costs, thus rendering itself even less attractive and ensuring further declines in enrollment; a veritable death spiral.

But the most inexcusable element of USM’s sorry state is that its six-year graduation rate, again according to its own Office of Institutional Research and Assessment, is only 33 percent.

If the purpose of attending college is to obtain a degree, then USM has a failure rate of 67 percent.

No community in Maine would, or should, accept that from its local high school.

The imbroglio over Selma Botman has obscured two pressing questions: Should Maine taxpayers continue to subsidize failure at USM?

And, if so, why?

Perry H. Clark is a resident of Cape Elizabeth.