Changing the name of the University of Southern Maine to the University of Maine at Portland is essential to securing Maine’s economic future. As a 20-year-old USM student and as a member of the University of Maine System Board of Trustees, I see firsthand from both sides what Maine has in store for its youth population. Mind you, this population is quickly diminishing as Maine and many other states in the country are struggling with a demographic cliff. The state of Maine is expecting a 12 percent decline in public K-12 enrollment between 2014 and 2026. This translates into fewer people to hold jobs in critical demand, especially as the oldest state in the nation gets older. Jobs in health care, education, engineering and other jobs essential to our state’s economy will go unfilled.

Where does the name change come in? Independently gathered data show that changing USM’s name to the University of Maine at Portland leverages the name recognition and positive reputation of the city of Portland. This name change will generate 61 percent more out-of-state students looking at the institution, with 49 percent of those saying they’d consider attending. If we can attract new students to Maine and fill jobs across the state with qualified, educated individuals, then the only way is up. Maine will grow and prosper as a result of the name change.

This is also an opportune moment to change the name of the institution, as we are beginning the construction of a new student center, funded in part by the generosity of the voters in supporting the 2018 Bond for Maine’s Public Universities; and a new 550-bed dormitory in Portland, funded through a unique public-private partnership with Capstone Development Partners.

Not only does the name change significantly move the needle in bringing in out-of-state students, it also provides for greater integration with Maine’s public universities, all of which hold the title of the “University of Maine” within its name. The name change also generates new interest in all of the campuses of the University of Maine System, with 65 percent of those out-of-state students surveyed saying they would be more likely to look at Maine’s institutions of higher education. From Fort Kent to Kittery and everywhere in between, the state of Maine would be better served by the name change.

To those concerned that changing USM’s name leaves out the historic Gorham and Lewiston campuses, I say that the growth that this name change aims to bring in can only benefit the entirety of USM. In no way will USM’s commitment to these campuses be curtailed. Only as a strong-three campus institution can USM best serve the people of Maine, which is the ultimate mission of a public university.

As it stands, the name “University of Southern Maine” can be confusing to those south of Kittery. As the data show, people do confuse the institution with Southern Maine Community College or with a private college. Even more a barrier to getting out-of-state students to the institution is the confusion with the University of Southern Mississippi, whose URL is usm.edu.

I strongly support this name change and had the honor of voting in support of it at the last Board of Trustees meeting. I joined many in the USM community in lending my voice in favor of this proposal, including the USM Student Government Association, the USM Alumni Association and the USM Board of Visitors, among others. Changing the name of the University of Southern Maine to the University of Maine at Portland is one of the most inexpensive and cost-effective ways to attract new students not only to southern Maine but also to all of Maine’s public universities.


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