ORONO — A new international high school will open at the University of Southern Maine next year, part of an effort to increase revenue while providing English-speaking foreign students with up to two years of college credit as they complete high school.

The University of Maine System trustees, meeting Monday on the University of Maine campus in Orono, authorized the school without discussion as part of their consent agenda.

“It’s certainly a great way to bring diversity to University of Southern Maine,” board Chairman Sam Collins said after the vote, adding that it could result in those students choosing to attend UMaine System schools for college degrees.

USM President Glenn Cummings said the school, tentatively called “International Early College at USM,” would initially enroll 50 students and house them in their own dorm at Anderson Hall on the Gorham campus. They would take existing entry-level courses alongside traditional USM students.

To enroll, students must be proficient in English and meet academic standards, and would graduate with a high school diploma and two years of transferable college credit. The $36,000-a-year charge includes tuition and fees, room and board, and fees paid directly to a USM partner, the Council on International Education Exchange, or CIEE. It does not include the admission fee, course fees, or any fees associated with extracurricular activities.

Scholarships would not be available, and the university expects to bring in $500,000 a year from the program.

It was supposed to open this fall, but it may be delayed until January 2017 or the following fall because USM has to work out visa approval issues with the federal government.

FINANCIAL UPDATE

Also Monday, the system’s finance chief told trustees that market upheaval has left investment pool revenue at a $3.6 million loss about halfway through the fiscal year, which ends June 30. The system budget anticipated the investment pool to provide $3 million in revenue, so the budget is facing a preliminary deficit of $6.6 million, Ryan Low said.

In a related update, Low said the campuses are all developing individual budgets, which are due at the system office Jan. 31. At this point, officials said it is likely that three campuses will need system financial support to balance their budgets.

“Losses in investment income will make financial assistance much more challenging than in prior years,” said a report given to the trustees.

The entire system has faced challenging budgets for years. The current $518 million system budget, which began in July, uses $7 million in emergency funds despite cutting 206 positions. The system faces a $52.6 million budget gap in 2020, according to five-year projections.

ACADEMIC UPGRADE

Also Monday, the trustees directed the chancellor to fill a senior administration position as part of a report on the systematic analysis of course offerings across all seven campuses.

The report on the “academic transformation” process included a recommendation that the long-vacant vice chancellor of academic affairs position be filled. Current UMaine President Susan Hunter held that position until June 2014.

In her final report on the academic overhaul, consultant Ellen Chaffee said the trustees should continue IT and unified budget upgrades – roughly $60 million worth of improvements already underway – if the academic overhaul is to be successful. Many ideas for upgrading course offerings rely on new investments in better technology so students can take part in online courses, for example.

“There’s a need for optimism, and there’s a need for realism at the same time,” Chaffee told the trustees, acknowledging the financial challenges facing the system.

Her recommendations also call for streamlining decision making and analyzing faculty workload.

The academic review involves faculty teams analyzing academic areas, such as nursing and business, and evaluating programs across campuses to see what changes should be made – for example, whether multiple campuses should offer the same degree. So far, 16 academic programs have been analyzed.

Recommendations include creating joint or system degrees for history, business, criminal justice, education, languages, marine sciences and nursing. Ideas include sharing courses and faculty, and creating semester-long residencies for students at various campuses for the recreation and tourism program.

On Sunday, the trustees endorsed adding the Muskie School of Public Service at USM to a proposed graduate center that was initially planned for just business and law programs.

The proposed graduate center would be located in Portland and house the University of Maine School of Law, the graduate business programs that now operate at USM and UMaine in Orono, and the graduate programs in public health and in public policy and management that now operate at the Muskie school. It also would house the Cutler Institute for Health and Policy, which is the research arm of USM and part of the Muskie school on the Portland campus.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

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