BANGOR — A recent Maine Voices opinion piece speaks to the pressing concern as to how the University of Maine System allocates scarce public resources to serve our students and communities (“Top-heavy university takes low road,” March 16).

I agree Maine families and taxpayers should expect to know how their resources are used. The University of Maine System is Maine’s most important public asset. It alone has the resources, scope and scale, and – above all – the responsibility to engage with all Maine citizens, businesses and communities.

In order to remain a viable asset, we are actively changing the business and education model that has been in place for decades, to position our universities to better serve our students, businesses, and communities.

Our entire organization – across the state – is restructuring and reducing costs while ensuring that our core mission is enhanced and not compromised. We will be smaller, but we will have greater impact by providing greater levels of service and by making education more affordable.

Three years ago, our Board of Trustees made a decision to freeze tuition in the face of major financial challenges.

Like state government, the University of Maine System faces a significant budget gap. Over the next five years, if we were to make no changes in how we currently do business, we would face a cumulative shortfall of $65 million to $95 million, with $36 million accruing the fiscal year that begins July 1.


We are committed to closing this gap, not on the backs of our students, who are already overburdened by costs and debt, or by asking more of Maine taxpayers, but by comprehensively restructuring how we do business.

As part of these changes, since 2007 we have eliminated nearly 10 percent of our entire statewide workforce – a total of 520 full-time positions. More than one-quarter of administrative positions have been eliminated and 10 percent of faculty positions.

Of those remaining 4,893 faculty and staff, nearly all of them work at our universities or provide shared support to all seven campuses in areas such as information technology, procurement, payroll, legal and other services. The majority of these employees are located on the campuses that they serve.

A very small fraction of our staff – less than a third of 1 percent – support the Board of Trustees in their governance role and provide academic, financial and administrative oversight for the seven-campus system in accordance with the trustees’ policies and directives.

One of those directives established in 2012 was that we carry out a comprehensive, systemwide review of all administrative functions, with the goal of reducing costs and reallocating those savings to academic and student programs. That is under way, and the consolidation of campus reporting structures into shared administrative services is reducing the total number of nonfaculty staff and is estimated to save about $5 million by 2016 and more thereafter.

Some would suggest utilizing one-time university reserves set aside for scholarships, deferred maintenance and other critical needs to lessen budget cuts. But these are not resources we can count on as repeatable each year.


Instead, we will further reduce systemwide administrative support costs to ensure more resources are available for our primary mission of educational instruction, research and public service.

Currently, 8 percent of our budget is comprised of administrative support. Nearly 70 percent of our budget is spent directly on academic and student affairs. The remainder covers the cost of operating and maintaining a seven-university physical plant and the operation of auxiliary enterprises such as dining services, residence halls and the university bookstores.

As a system, we must all rally behind the trustees’ commitment to change how we do business without compromising our students’ opportunities or our responsibilities to Maine families, businesses and communities.

In today’s world, nothing remains constant. Higher education is no different in this period of extraordinary change. The University of Maine System must be more nimble, and it can no longer survive utilizing a static, outdated business and educational model.

Together, through education, we can transform lives; through research and economic development, we will partner with business and drive economic growth, and through public service, we will continue to help build and support communities from Kittery to Fort Kent and from Jackman to Calais.

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