Unified accreditation for the University of Maine System has been in the news a lot this summer. But let’s be honest – it’s gobbledygook that has very little meaning outside the world of academia.

Accreditation is like a report card for colleges and universities. It’s a way to ensure students who attend a school can receive a quality education. Without accreditation, schools lose federal funding for scholarships and an earned degree is of less value. Schools without accreditation are also less attractive to incoming students who want to make sure that they are getting a good-value, high-quality education.

The University of Maine System, like institutions of higher education across the country, faces a new reality. Enrollment and revenue are down. There are fewer children in Maine’s high schools, and of those graduating, fewer seek higher education of any kind.

Done on a university-by-university basis, accreditation requires a wide range of programs that cannot all be sustained with low enrollment and resulting lower revenues. And without accreditation, the spiral for individual universities accelerates and gets worse, until they are no longer viable.

The University of Maine System Board of Trustees must balance the needs of Maine students with our charge to balance the budget, recognizing that much of our funding comes from Maine taxpayers and the families who pay tuition. We must sustain the affordability, accessibility and quality of higher education and that requires change.

State law requires the University of Maine System to maintain the seven campuses – the University of Maine, the University of Southern Maine, the University of Maine at Farmington, the University of Maine at Augusta, the University of Maine at Presque Isle, the University of Maine at Fort Kent and the University of Maine at Machias – in their current locations.


Each of these universities provides valuable, unique and important contributions to Maine and to their regions’ economy, culture and community life. Standing alone, however, some of the universities may not meet traditional accreditation requirements.

Unified accreditation also supports other cross-university collaborations, such as bringing key graduate programs to the University of Southern Maine, above, in Portland. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

Chancellor Dannel Malloy and his team have led us to the unified accreditation status conferred in 2020 by our accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education.

This accreditation model is a tool to retain our universities by allowing shared resources and increased efficiency.

For example, the University of Maine now supports student financial aid administration at UMFK and UMPI. Our former individual university accreditations required that each campus maintain the full complement of institutional resources required by New England Commission of Higher Education standards. The unified environment permits the maximizing of resources across the system.

Unified accreditation also supports other cross-university collaborations, such as bringing key graduate programs to Portland and, in a collaboration between several universities, providing new opportunities to address the needs of Maine businesses and assure a skilled and ready workforce.

And we are working to improve access to course offerings system-wide so students can more easily find and enroll in courses at any of our institutions. Once completed, we expect this change and related improvements will help us retain more students while helping them – guided by their faculty advisers – complete their degrees as efficiently as possible.


Unified accreditation supports the unique strengths of each university and upholds the shared governance principles that ensure faculty engagement in curricula.

It is also work in progress.

A faculty governance council with representatives from each university is engaged in the work. How unified accreditation unfolds will be determined by students, faculty, staff and administrators working together.

We’re charting new territory and need to do it together. Unified accreditation is a way for the system to support and sustain universities, not to take control over them. This is not a top-down program. Rather, its success will come from faculty and local administrators creating programs that are shared among the universities to meet the needs of the students.

It’s the best way to sustain and improve our universities and to make sure students can access the classes they need and all the financial aid for which they qualify.

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