Struggling with financial losses and declining enrollment at the University of Maine System’s smallest campus, officials are planning to restructure UMaine Machias to integrate some of its administration and academic offerings with the flagship campus in Orono.

“On its current course … (UMaine Machias) is neither financially nor operationally viable,” system officials said in an email on Wednesday. However, it will continue in a restructured form. “A strong, vibrant Machias campus is an essential part of any growth strategy.”

The Down East campus, located about 100 miles east of Orono, has 786 students, a smaller population than several high schools in the state.

In recent years, it has taken system reserves to balance Machias’ budget, and it faces some of the biggest demographic challenges in the state. There has been a 31 percent decline in the number of students graduating from Washington County high schools since 2007.

“Combining our excellent programs and community focus with the reach and depth of Maine’s Flagship University, we can achieve the scale needed to enhance quality education on the coast of Maine for generations to come,” UMaine Machias President Stuart Swain said in a statement.

System Chancellor James Page and the presidents of the two campuses said they would use the next eight months to determine how the “primary partnership” will work.


A team reviewing administrative changes will report its findings to Page before the system board’s July meeting. A team of faculty and academic leaders will review curriculum and programs and present its findings to the campus communities by Oct. 15, and report to Page before the system trustees’ meeting in November.

“At this point, we’re studying the depth of the partnership,” Swain said.

“We really see opportunities back and forth,” said UMaine President Sue Hunter. Some Machias professors hold graduate appointments at UMaine already, and the two campuses partnered last year to have UMaine Orono handle financial-aid management for Machias.

Machias has a roughly $9 million annual budget, and in recent years has needed up to $1 million in emergency system funds to balance its budget.

“The Machias campus has lived with uncertainty for a very long time,” Page said. “It’s got a great strategic vision, but no resources to execute it … They needed help.”

The system has been moving toward greater integration overall throughout the seven-campus system, part of a decision to move toward working as a single, unified system instead of seven distinct universities overseen by one central office.


Over the last several years, primarily in an effort to stem multimillion-dollar losses, the system has integrated several back-office functions across the system, including human relations, information technology, purchasing and financial systems. It is in the process of closing the central office in Bangor and relocating administrative units to various campuses.

The changes have resulted in savings, but the system still faces a projected budget gap of $52.6 million by 2020.

Although many back-office functions have already been consolidated within the system, Swain said, other possible areas to integrate with Orono could include alumni relations, development, institutional research, student records and managing athletics.

When Page announced changes as part of the “One University” initiative, he emphasized that none of the campuses would be closed. There have been long-standing debates about the structure of the seven-campus system, which is dominated by the two largest campuses – Orono and University of Southern Maine, which have about 18,000 students between them. The smaller campuses at Augusta, Farmington, Machias, Presque Isle and Fort Kent collectively enroll fewer than 10,000 students.

In addition to a president, UMaine Machias’ administration includes a provost and dean of students.

Academically, the 243-acre UMaine Machias has branded itself as “Maine’s Coastal University,” emphasizing programs tied to the region’s economy, including marine biology, psychology and community studies, the book arts, and environmental recreation and tourism management.


The total annual cost of room and board, tuition and fees at UMaine is $20,012 for in-state students and $37,382 for out-of-state students. At UMaine Machias it is $15,946 for in-state students and $27,766 for out-of-state students.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: noelinmaine

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