LEWISTON — The Lewiston-Auburn Senior College is looking for rent-free venues for classes, now that it is a nonprofit and is severed from the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College on Westminster Street.

The Senior College will have to start paying to use all USM facilities and services at the Lewiston campus starting January 2024. It became a nonprofit in September 2022.

Some courses can be taught online but others are in-person, which require spaces, Executive Director Lucy Bisson said.

When the Senior College became a nonprofit, it lost its privilege to use USM facilities, Gina Guadagnino, USM chief of staff and executive director of Public Affairs, said.

The University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn Campus is seen Tuesday afternoon on Westminster Street in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“It was made clear to Lewiston Auburn Senior College that, in becoming a private 501(c)(3), they would become an outside entity and subject to all fees, contracts and similar policies pertaining to outside entities who request to use space at the Lewiston Auburn Campus,” she said in an email to the Sun Journal.

The Senior College decided to become a nonprofit to assess and more quickly adapt to its members’ needs, which USM is too big to do, Bisson said. USM systems are set up to serve those students but usually do not cover Senior College students’ necessities.


“While our ties to the university remain strong, this option offers us more autonomy and versatility to meet our members’ needs,” she said.

In the spring of 2022, officials operating under the previous USM leadership team at the Lewiston-Auburn College told Senior College officials it would have to start paying to use classrooms, information technology services and other facilities in the future, according to a May 31, 2022, email Bisson sent to other Senior College members describing a meeting between her and campus staff.

It was a contributing factor in the Senior College’s decision to become a nonprofit, Bisson said.

The new USM leadership team, which took control in July 2022 when President Jacqueline Edmonson started, did not mention anything about requiring the Senior College to pay for space and services at the Lewiston campus until the Senior College made clear its intention to become a nonprofit in August 2022, Guadagnino said.

The new USM leadership team does not have written records of any conversations between staff operating under the previous team and Senior College officials before Edmonson started, she said. Shifts in leadership, portfolio assignments and hiring within USM are still ongoing.

There have been several different Lewiston Auburn campus directors to come and go in the past few years, according to Bisson.


After several conversations negotiating rental and service rates with campus staff, Senior College officials still could not afford to pay even the lowest rates USM was offering it, according to Bisson. It would be around $400 to rent one classroom for an eight-week class.

“It is not feasible at all for us to be paying those prices for that space,” she said.

Senior College officials would like to stay on campus for many reasons, including good parking and accommodating facilities.

The Senior College charges its members a yearly $25 membership fee and a $25 fee for classes that span multiple weeks, she said. It does not charge members for daylong or week long classes.

Many Senior College members are on fixed incomes and cannot afford to pay fees much higher than what is required, Bisson said, but it will raise them if it has to. Most take courses for enjoyment, socialization, exploration, growth and connection, not to gain college credits.

The Senior College is looking for locations within Lewiston and Auburn to host classes, including churches, the Auburn Public Library, the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce conference room, and others, Bisson said. It could still use USM spaces occasionally.

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