MACHIAS — The University of Maine System board of trustees got welcome news on enrollment Monday, but students and faculty pushed back on a recent trustee vote to approve a new joint graduate business program next fall as part of a new graduate center.

The official fall 2016 head count is up after a decade-plus decline.

Across all seven campuses, the fall 2016 enrollment is 29,465 students, up 1.6 percent from last year, according to final figures. It’s the first annual increase in enrollment since 2003, when the head count at the seven-campus system peaked at 34,375 students.

The trustees also got feedback on their vote in late October to support a first-stage $15 million plan to create a new graduate center for business, law and public policy in Portland.

The vote, taken at a special meeting in East Millinocket, authorized the system chancellor to ask for additional funding from the Harold Alfond Foundation, which has been the driving financial force behind the $150 million initiative.

But on Monday, students and faculty said the process felt rushed, and didn’t give faculty at University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine in Orono – who would combine their MBA programs under the proposal – to work out governance issues and details about how a joint program would work.


The proposed center would house the University of Maine School of Law, a new MBA program that combines the current graduate business programs operating at USM and UMaine, and the graduate programs in public health and in public policy and management that now operate at the Muskie School of Public Service at USM. 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.

During the public comment period on Monday, several faculty members and a student told the trustees they support the idea of the graduate center, but they wanted the process to slow down. The trustees’ plan assumed a start date of fall 2017 for the joint MBA program.

“This is exactly what the students need,” student Jay Knowlton said, praising the idea of a joint MBA program and graduate center. “The problem is that you take millions of dollars from private foundation money, and there isn’t adequate time for the faculties to agree. Then you’ll find yourself with millions spent, and not be able to pull the bigger trigger (of launching the program.)”

Faculty members from both USM and UMaine said their faculties are concerned enough that they were officially asking their respective administrations to “cease and desist” support of the combined program “unless and until” the two faculties can work out their concerns. “Without (those agreements) in place, saying it will open in fall 2017 is misleading to students,” said Elizabeth Tureski, a USM professor and the faculty representative to the board.

Also Monday, the trustees approved a plan for USM to lease new off-campus housing next fall in Bayside Village apartments in Portland.

As part of the consent agenda, the trustees approved a $9.5 million, five-year plan to let USM lease two floors of the building, exclusively for undergraduate and graduate housing. Four students would live in each four-bedroom apartment, equipped with a full kitchen, for about $750 a month, which is roughly the same as the current housing rate at the USM dorms on the Gorham campus and about 30 percent lower than the market rate for the units.


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