The University of Maine Board of Trustees voted Monday to allow UMaine Orono to pull $5.7 million out of its savings to help close a $17 million budget gap caused in part by declining enrollment.

“It is not a long-term solution, but it is a good alternative to sweeping cuts,” Ryan Low, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said in an email Monday night.

The system is facing financial challenges because of lower-than-anticipated enrollment, campus housing occupancy and dining hall usage. The system started the fiscal year with a $616.7 million budget, but every campus except the law school has faced a deficit and has had to revise its budget this year.

The $11.3 million the Orono campus needs to erase the rest of its $17 million deficit will come from a combination of cost-saving measures such as cutting service and supply costs, attrition, hiring freezes and one-time energy savings, the university said.

Pulling $5.7 million from reserves will leave Orono – one of multiple schools in the system that is dipping into reserves – with roughly $29 million in unallocated savings at the end of the fiscal year.

The board approved revised budgets for Orono and Farmington on Monday and for the other four campuses – Augusta, Fort Kent, Presque Isle and The University of Southern Maine – in November.


The budget revisions set the schools up for balanced or near-balanced budgets for the 2023 fiscal year, but the system isn’t out of the woods. Board members and system leadership say the state’s public university system’s financial woes are likely to continue into the 2024 fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

“This has clearly been a little wakeup call reminding us that 2024 is going to be a tough budget year and we have work ahead,” board Chair Trish Riley said after the trustees heard from Orono and Farmington about budgetary shortfalls and voted to approve the schools’ budget revisions.

The reason for the budget deficits vary slightly depending on the school but are largely due to lower than expected enrollment overall and subsequently lower campus housing and dining hall usage and lower than expected enrollment of out-of-state students, whom the system charges significantly more for tuition.

At Orono, tuition is $11,940 for in-state students and $34,080 for out-of-state students.

Across the system, total undergraduate credit-hour enrollment is down by 5.64 percent compared with this time last year. Residence hall occupancy is down 5.3 percent systemwide.

The enrollment decline is a national, multiyear trend. UMaine System undergraduate enrollment has dropped by 13.4 percent since January 2019.


Across the country, college and university enrollment dropped around 7 percent between fall 2019, before the pandemic, and fall 2022, according to a report published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in October.

In addition to building cost-saving measures into their budgets such as attrition, hiring freezes and decreasing some services, some schools are getting creative with money-making propositions.

Farmington, for example, is working on a deal with Franklin Memorial Hospital to house some of its workforce in its dorms.

Systemwide, leadership is working to market the schools and the research opportunities they can offer, recruit out-of-state students, accept students earlier in the admissions process and reduce redundancy by allowing students to take courses remotely across the system.

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story