BANGOR — The University of Maine System announced plans Monday to consolidate all administrative functions as part of its effort to close a budget gap, but will keep all seven campuses and their presidents.

“Maine can no longer afford the system we have now. Maine cannot afford a system weighed down by far too much administration,” Chancellor James Page told the board of trustees, which met Monday in Bangor.

It was too early to know how much money would be saved or how many administrative positions would be eliminated under the change, Page said.

The system also plans to retool academic offerings to reduce overlap and save money as part of its latest initiative in an overhaul plan to close a projected $69 million systemwide deficit by 2019.

Also Monday, the trustees voted to divest about a half-million dollars from coal investments, making UMaine the first public university system in the country to divest from fossil fuels, system officials said. They also announced that finalists have been identified for the presidency of the University of Southern Maine.

As part of the reorganization, the system’s central office in Bangor will close, and the various systemwide administrative units will be located at whichever campus makes the most sense, Page said. Purchasing, for example, is located on the Augusta campus.


“This will dramatically reduce all administrative functions into a single administrative structure appropriate to its mission and size,” Page said, noting that the entire seven-campus system, with about 30,000 students, is the size of a single public university in other states.

The system already consolidated information technology and purchasing functions into single, systemwide units in the past two years, and the trustees approved consolidating human resources functions last fall. The last major department to consolidate will be finance, officials say.

In the academic overhaul, each campus will be charged with focusing coursework around its distinct mission so the UMaine schools will be seen as a single system with a portfolio of offerings instead of seven competing universities offering similar courses.

“We will be a fully integrated university with multiple mission-differentiated campuses,” Page said. “This is a pretty substantial restructuring of how we do business.”


The plan comes as the system grapples with a budget crisis dating to the recession that has been fueled by declining enrollments, flat state funding and a three-year tuition freeze.


In the most recent budget approved in May, officials cut 157 positions and used $11.4 million in emergency funds to close a $36 million deficit in the system’s $529 million budget for the year.

The consolidation so far, in IT and procurement, saves the system $5 million a year, said Rebecca Wyke, system vice president of finance and administration. Consolidating human resources functions is estimated to save $1.4 million within four years, she said.

There is no estimate yet for the potential savings in consolidating the finance functions.

Closing one or more campuses and eliminating campus presidents have been considered in the past, and Page said it was discussed again last year before being rejected.

“We believe strongly that the various campuses play an essential mission in the state in terms of education, in terms of economic development and as the civic centers for their regions,” he said. “The statewide mandate we have as a system would be severely compromised if we were to pull back.”



Critics have questioned the need for full administrative functions for the smaller campuses in particular. UMaine-Machias has 516 students and Presque Isle has 779.

But the last formal attempt to close campuses, in 2004 under then-Chancellor Joseph Westphal, was soundly rejected by local communities and lawmakers. That plan would have folded UMaine-Augusta into the University of Southern Maine, and merged the three smallest campuses under a single administration.

Wyke said the system also intends to consolidate several other administrative units spread out among the seven campuses, including marketing, enrollment and institutional research.

In other business:

n The names of the finalists for the USM presidency will be announced as early as Tuesday, officials said. There were 80 applicants, and eight candidates already have gone through in-person interviews, according to trustee Jim Irwin, who is heading the search committee.

n The trustees’ vote to divest direct holdings from coal companies amounts to $502,000, or about 30 percent of the system’s roughly $1.7 million in coal investments. The policy adopted Monday, tailored after one adopted by Stanford University, divests the system from direct holdings, but not mutual or commingled funds.


“This is an incredible victory,” student organizer Meaghan LaSala, one of the leaders of the Divest UMaine coalition, said after the vote. “I’m ecstatic.”

LaSala and others said they hoped the trustees would continue to divest from other fossil fuel investments. “We see this as just a first step,” she said.

Iris SanGiovanni, a student organizer with Divest UMaine, noted that in 1982, the system was one of the first in the country to divest from South Africa over apartheid. Divesting from coal, she said, “puts us on the right side of history.”

The board also voted to expand in-state tuition to all dependents of veterans from any state, in a move to comply with recent federal law.

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